Charlatan tells the audacious true story of quack doctor John Brinkley, who became fabulously wealthy in the 1920s implanting goat testes into impotent American men. Johnny Heller's vigorous performance of this tale of the ultimate hustler will keep listeners on the edge of their seats, tracking John as he accomplishes an unbelievable litany of achievements, including establishing himself as a respected authority on sexual rejuvenation, pioneering radio advertising, and running for governor of Kansas. It took Morris Fishbein, editor of the American Medical Association's journal, 15 years to bring Brinkley to justice - but when he finally got him into court, it was high drama. Wildly entertaining and completely bizarre, Charlatan is proof that truth is often stranger than fiction.
In the meantime, despite mounting evidence that his quack treatments killed many patients, Brinkley became a millionaire, and his pioneering use of radio not only kick-started country music as a national force in America but also invented the whole concept of radio advertising. He also became the first politician to campaign over the airwaves when he ran for governor of Kansas.
©2008 Pope Brock; (P)2008 Tantor
"Told with uproarious brio...heavenly...A book so lively that its wild stories are virtually wall to wall." (The New York Times)
"Hugely amusing [but also] dark and cautionary, a reminder of the high price of gullibility and ignorance." (Washington Post Book World)
"If Hollywood hasn't already optioned Pope Brock's Charlatan....what's keeping it?" (Newsweek)
Fascinating subject, but the narrator was amateurish beyond belief. He did not prepare by checking pronunciation of words. "Precis" he pronounced pre-sis. He did not realize that Gila monster is from the Spanish so it is "Hila" not a g sound. He called Pavia, Italy, PA' via when it is Pa- VI'-A. Kudos to the author; nix the narrator.
The story is amazing, the narration not so much. The author has done such a good job that it's worth overlooking the mispronounced words and ridiculous character voices.
This book is funny and sad, but most of all just mind-boggling. It proves in spades the observation (attributed to P.T. Barnum) that "There's a sucker born every minute." The only reason I didn't give it five stars is the mediocre narration, which included some startling mispronunciations. My favorite was "precis" pronounced PREE-sis.
I first heard of "Dr. Brinkley from Del Rio" in a routine by the late country comedian Jerry Clower. Such was Brinkley's influence on country music and broadcasting.
Pope Brock does a wonderful job in telling how Brinkley achieved that fame (or infamy, depending on your point of view) and the relentless attacks by the A.M.A. as a result.
This 5-star book gets a 4 because, unfortunately, Johnny Heller's performance is a little too monotonic and not paced right.
Highly recommended for history, music, and political afficionados.
Excellent book about a historical misfit. The writing is top-notch, and the writer incidentally manages to provide a subtle and illuminating depiction of America at the turn of the century.
Excellent narration-- the writer seems to be plucked right out of the 1910s with surprising inflections and all.
I selected this book because of the sheer quirkiness of the description. However, once start, I couldn't stop listening. It is a fascinating look into a part of American history that I knew almost nothing about (but after finishing the book am amazed that I didn't).
The book and the narration were both great. This is the kind of well-researched book that changes the way you view the recent past and present. Brinkley wasn't just an evolution of the snake oil salesman, he had an important role in the rise of the modern A.M.A., medical marketing, and even country music.
Johnny Heller's narration was brisk, old-timey when appropriate, and you could tell he enjoyed the book. Yes, he mispronounced Gila monster but to deduct stars for one or two mispronounced words is pedantry.
Pope Brock in his entertaining and informative book, "Charlatan," tells the story of John Brnkley who became a medicine man early in the last century. He became famous for transplanting goat testicles into impotent men. That is not the entire story, however.
It seems America has always been interested in circus side shows, quick cures, and hucksters in general. Today we carry on the tradition in reality shows, The Learning Channel programs on the odities of humanity and other entertainments. John Brinkley capitalized on that tradition.
Most interesting to me was the discussion of Brinkley's move into radio and how he turned it into a money machine. As a boy, I remember his station broadcasting (along with XEG - DelRio) the Carter Family, the Light Crust Dough Boys, and so forth. We could travel across the country at night and hear the DJs peddle medicine, music, and autographed pictures of Christ. It was a hoot at the time for sure.
The book takes the listener back to a simpler (?) time where anything was possible and we all believed. I did not give it four stars because it wanders in places and is a little over written in spots. Otherwise, "Charlatan" is an interesting change of pace. The reading is excellent.
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