Charlatan: America’s Most Dangerous Huckster, the Man Who Pursued Him, and the Age of Flimflam by Pope Brock.
Reviewed by Terri Summey, 2009 Kansas Notable Books Committee
The saying that “truth is stranger than fiction” definitely applies to this entertaining and fascinating work by Pope Brock, noted author of Indiana Gothic and numerous other publications.
In Charlatan, Brock presents a biographical sketch of John R. Brinkley, the “Kansas Goat Gland Doctor” who was almost elected Governor of the State of Kansas. The work begins with Brinkley’s early days and illustrates how he came from humble beginnings to become one of the most famous and richest surgeons in the United States. Brock discusses Brinkley’s run for Governor in the 1930s employing campaign techniques that have become commonplace in our modern society. After losing his campaign for Governor and then his medical license, Brinkley expanded his business, moving his medical advice and remedies to the radio airwaves. He moved to Texas and built the largest radio tower across the border in Mexico.
In between medical shows, Brinkley introduced the American populace to country music and the blues that he used to fill his time slots. The work also describes the life and career of Morris Fishbein, who vowed to put Brinkley out of business and bring the charlatan to justice for murdering and maiming individuals. The work ends climactically with a courtroom showdown between Brinkley and Fishbein. This well-researched book documents an era in American and Kansas history and is fun to read. Many senior citizens will remember Brinkley and his radio station that featured such acts as the Carter Family.
A bibliography of sources and an index is included in the book. It is highly recommended for academic and public library collections.
If you would like to order this book, please consider ordering from one of the Kansas Center for the Book Affiliates: Book Kansas!, Claflin Books, Town Crier, Watermark Books.