Carrie's Reviews > Charlatan: America's Most Dangerous Huckster, the Man Who Pursued Him, and the Age of Flimflam

Charlatan by Pope Brock
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's review
Apr 15, 10

really liked it
bookshelves: biography, disturbing-in-a-good-way, human-behavior, audiobooks
Read in April, 2010

There's a goat on the cover for a good reason. The subject, fake doctor J.R. Brinkley, made a fortune by performing, among other things, goat testicle transplants to humans. This was widely known in the 20's, and it's hard to believe the American collective brain has forgotten him so quickly. This man was one of the richest and most famous people in the country. He owned the most powerful radio station in the world and introduced listeners to the Carter family. He almost won the governorship of Kansas. And his downfall was also hugely embarrassing. After years of heavy criticism and scrutiny from the editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association, Brinkley sued for libel (bad move!) and was proved to be a quack. He had to admit that he didn't hook up the nerves, but just cut a hole in the man's scrotum and threw the goat balls in and sewed it up. He also had to admit that one of his bottled remedies was nothing but water with a little blue dye. And when he claimed that nobody ever died in his hospital under his care, well, a sheaf of death certificates said otherwise. But since people are idiots, they continued to support Brinkley because he was charming and offered them TESTIMONIALS!

I read this on the heels of "Thunderstruck," and noticed that the two go together nicely. "Thunderstruck" takes place at the turn of the century and also discusses patent medicines and a doctor under the world's magnifying glass, only that doctor had murdered his wife, not a patient.

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