Book Review Thursday: Charlatan: America’s Most Dangerous Huckster, the Man Who Pursued Him, and the Age of Flimflam

CharlatanI have to say at the beginning that this book was one of the most entertaining history books I’ve ever read.  I don’t often purchase library books to keep for my own library, but this one was a must-buy for future reference (and some rollicking good “quack” stories for this blog someday).

The book was meticulously researched and written by Pope Brock, originally published under the title Charlatan: The Fraudulent Life of John R. Brinkley.  The book is about a man by the name of John R. Brinkley, charlatan extraordinaire, who took full advantage of the era of hawking (mostly worthless) patent medicine to a gullible public.

All hucksters of that era had their own shtick – his was curing declining male virility.  He came up with an outlandish “surgical procedure” involving (ahem) goat testicles.  As outrageous as the whole scheme sounds, John Brinkley became a very rich man, despite the fact that most people discovered too late that his “cure” was a total fraud.  He even ran for Kansas governor twice and came close to pulling it off.

The book contains a fair amount of history, not only about John Brinkley, but about the “age of flimflam”.  One man was particularly incensed that Brinkley was getting away, in some cases, with near-murder.  Morris Fishbein practically made it his life’s work to nail Brinkley once and for all – it just took awhile.

I was surprised to learn that this is only the second book Pope Brock has written and published – the man is a born story teller.  There is just enough mild tongue-in-cheek innuendo to make it not only informative but humorous as well.  So, if you dare to know more about goat gland transplantation :), pick up a copy at your local library or favorite bookstore – you won’t be disappointed.

Rating:  ★★★★★

Have a GREAT day . . . someday it will be HISTORY!

© Sharon Hall (Digging History), 2015.


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