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Extended Audio Sample Charlatan: America’s Most Dangerous Huckster, the Man Who Pursued Him, and the Age of Flimflam, by Pope Brock Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (981 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Pope Brock Narrator: Johnny Heller Publisher: Tantor Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: February 2008 ISBN: 9781400176076
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In 1917, John R. Brinkley—America’s most brazen con man—introduced an outlandish surgical method for restoring fading male virility. It was all nonsense, but thousands of eager customers quickly made “Dr.” Brinkley one of America’s richest men—and a national celebrity. The great quack buster Morris Fishbein vowed to put the country’s “most daring and dangerous” charlatan out of business, yet each effort seemed only to spur Brinkley to new heights of ingenuity, and the worlds of advertising, broadcasting, and politics soon proved to be equally fertile grounds for his potent brand of flimflam. Culminating in a decisive courtroom confrontation, Charlatan is a marvelous portrait of a boundlessly audacious rogue on the loose in an America ripe for the bamboozling.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Brock masterfully captures this amazing and amusing history. A talented storyteller, he digs deep into the personal secrets of his characters and fleshes out this oddball slice of American drama.”

    USA Today

  • “Brock is a fresh, sharp writer, lingering lovingly over the evocative language of fakery.”

    Chicago Sun-Times

  • “Johnny Heller’s twangy voice resonates with the expansive openness of the Midwestern environs where the book takes place ."

    AudioFile

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jessica Heck | 2/7/2014

    " Before you start judging me for liking a book about goat testicle transplants, hear me out: This book is fascinating because it is so ridiculous and so true. In a lot of ways, it reminds me of the book I'm reading now, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Both are about the eras that preceded modern medicine and all the things that people tried and got away with at the time. You find yourself thinking, "How is that possible that people thought that was a good idea?" followed abruptly by "I wonder what medical practices we are doing now that we will look back on and be appalled by..." If you like creative nonfiction, this is a good read. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 danny | 1/31/2014

    " Quick and fascinating reading. As much an indictment of the early days of the American medical community and the intelligence of Americans in general as it is an indictment of the frauds who took advantage of both... "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Meri | 1/28/2014

    " This ludicrously funny account of the rise of Dr Charles Brinkley--a title the man never earned--left me somewhere between tickled and disgusted. Despite having never received a medical degree, Brinkley made millions marketing various folk cures alongside goat gland surgery, which was touted as a way to fight male impotency. Brinkley was a brilliant salesman, pulling off such incredible feats as nearly being elected governor of Kansas after his medical license was revoked. If nothing else, this was an interesting read about a larger-than-life person who prospered at the dawn of American consumerism. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Andrew | 1/19/2014

    " This book was highly recommended to me by my friend, colleague, and Iraqi War buddy--Tom Kenniff, and it delivered. This is as good a nonfiction book as I have read. The book chronicles the meteoric rise of one of America's "greatest" quack doctors, John Brinkley. Fact is truly stranger than fiction, and here, the facts are scarcely believable. Brinkley pioneered and popularized and made millions off a surgery in the 1920s and 30s wherein he "grafted" goat testes in men and goat ovaries in women. The surgery--primarily for erectile dysfunction--was good for whatever ailed you. Along the way, Brinkley was almost elected governor of Kansas, was accidentally instrumental in the rise country music and the development of megawattage radio stations, and largely established the credibility of the AMA as it battled his chicanery. During this era, Lawrence Fishbein was Brinkley's nemesis and the face of the AMA. Fishbein was part of a Chicago Algonguin Roundtable-like group of poker players that included Sinclair Lewis and Carl Sandburg. He brought about the ultimate demise of Brinkley by goading him into suing Fishbein for libel. But for 2 decades he was a household name, evading justice, while leaving a swath of bodies behind him "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Matt Supko | 1/16/2014

    " Has there been a more definitive study of quackery? Sure, the writing is a bit uneven, and the structure wanders some, but it's a fun ride as Brock's research turned up so many fantastic tangents that he couldn't leave out--and I'd be mad if he had. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Laura | 12/28/2013

    " This is a very entertaining book and you learn a lot about doctors being virtually unregulated in the early part of the 19th century and how radio came to be. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Doug Buse | 12/10/2013

    " Enjoyed the book, especially the link to early radio and its music performers. Amazing how this guy stayed in business so long. I'm going to follow up on the Del Rio TX border blaster link to Wolfman Jack and his contribution to popularizing blues and early rock and roll. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Heidi | 12/8/2013

    " This book is absolutely astounding. I cannot believe all the horrible, awful, no good, very bad things this "Doctor" got away with! I caught myself several times throughout my reading of this book shaking my head, open-mouthed. It's incredible and despicable all at once. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Dale Sino | 12/6/2013

    " Amusing history of snake oil peddlers, unlicensed "doctors" and the original purpose of the AMA. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Alex | 12/5/2013

    " Great book about medical quacks "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jane | 10/23/2013

    " Sometimes felt like reading a term paper. Bookmarks gave four stars? "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kristin | 4/29/2013

    " How did I not know about this guy before? A fun and fascinating read. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Scott | 11/9/2012

    " the writing isn't brilliant, but the subject matter is exceptional. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Angie | 4/28/2012

    " This had some very interesting history of the dawn of modern medicine, medical practice, and the prime of quackery. I liked it, he just seemed to ramble and repeat himself many times throughout the book. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Andreavarga | 6/16/2011

    " Absolutely jaw dropping, you just can't believe this stuff is real, but it is. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Paul | 2/8/2011

    " When people bitch about the pervasiveness of misleading advertising - particularly misleading advertising for medical or weight-reduction miracle products - I want to say "You kids ain't seen nuthin'." "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Chrisf | 1/26/2011

    " This book is an amazing read. Thoroughly researched and captures your attention all the way through. I can't wait to read more Pope Brock. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Scott | 12/4/2010

    " Angela was right about this. Jaw-dropping. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Jessica | 10/17/2010

    " Listening to it; bout a 3rd of the way through and I love it. Very interesting the way it's woven together "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Arlene | 9/23/2010

    " actually did not finish, but it was so bad i couldn't, so I just failed it "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Kathleen | 9/5/2010

    " This was incredibly interesting. I can't believe how unregulated the medical field used to be, and how rich and famous this crazy guy got to be. I had no idea all this was going on during the Great Depression. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Mbeeman | 8/26/2010

    " An interesting story of a quack doctor in a tumultuous time in American history. Has enough discussion of goat testicles to last a lifetime. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 M. | 8/20/2010

    " The biggest problem with pop-history books is that they have an awful tendency to be dry, pedantic things--not this one. Mr. Brock's writing 'voice' is witty and entertaining, the subject is fascinating, and the book goes down quickly and easily. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Lindsay | 8/16/2010

    " The premiere work of goat-related narrative non-fiction in the English language today. Edges out "The Men Who Stare at Goats" for the top spot. A biography of one of the greatest quacks in American history and the quack-busting doctor who fought him every step of the way. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 betsy | 7/5/2010

    " Good book but I have no idea why people compare it to Devil & The White City. Nothing alike as far as I can tell. "

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About the Author
Author Pope Brock

Pope Brock is the author of the critically acclaimed Indiana Gothic: A Story of Adultery and Murder in an American Family, the story of his great-grandfather’s murder in 1908, and Charlatan: America’s Most Dangerous Huckster, the Man Who Pursued Him, and the Age of Flimflam. Brock has written for numerous publications, including Rolling Stone, Esquire, GQ, and the London Sunday Times Magazine. He lives in upstate New York with his twin daughters, Molly and Hannah.