My good friends at the Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy blog tour are going to be talking about a book called The Charlatan's Boy by Jonathan Rogers this week, so you can expect to see some great posts, reviews and insights from them over the next couple of days (see links below for bloggers who are participating). The Charlatan's Boy is the story of this charlatan who has a boy.
Oh, fine, I know, you want more of an explanation than that, and I understand why you would. Go check out the blogs below or the link at Amazon for a synopsis, because I want to talk about something else today. I want to talk about hucksters. Frauds. Fakes. Flim-flam men. Hmm. Why do so many of their names start with an f? It is a mystery.
Now, in television and movies we have a loving happy feeling toward our hucksters, because they are charismatic, charming and, after all, are only trying to provide the people with what they want! Snake oil! And the truth be told, we tend to like them in real life, too. We buy their hair care products! We fly to Mexico to get surgeries from them that are illegal in the U.S. We elect them to office!
I thought about this for a while and dug around to find a famous huckster from the past and came across the sad, strange story of John R. Brinkley. Brinkley started as a medicine man, the sort of guy who would travel from town to town and offer to inject people with colored water to help them overcome various illnesses. Eventually he hit on his paydirt idea, which was to offer to surgically insert goat glands into people suffering from various procreative problems. He eventually expanded what conditions the glands could help to include things like cancer. The man made a lot of money. He bought a radio station and used it to advertise his products, and used his profits to benefit the town he lived in, to the point that when California asked him to be extradited to face prosecution for various crimes, the governor of Kansas refused because the man was bringing in so much money for the state.
The guy might sound harmless, but he killed at least 40 people through malpractice. And when his medical (and broadcast) licenses were revoked, did he pack up and head for another town? No. HE RAN FOR GOVERNOR OF KANSAS. And he very nearly won!
His story is full of strange facts... after getting his broadcast license revoked he got permission from the Mexican government to build a broadcast tower so strong that people could get reception all the way in Canada. In fact, you didn't even have to listen to it on the radio... it was so powerful that people reported getting the station on electric fences and dental work. Amazing.
In the end, Brinkley was defeated by his arch-nemesis, Morris Fishbein, who tricked Brinkley into suing him for libel. The judge found that it was not libelous to call Brinkley a quack or a charlatan, because he was clearly both. This opened the gates to a flood of lawsuits that left Brinkley penniless until the end of his life.
Interestingly, you can still find people today who defend his medical practices and theories. That is the defining characteristic of the successful charlatan... people want his lies to be true.
There are a lot of people out there talking about THE CHARLATAN'S BOY this week. Check out my friends and their sites below:
Thomas Clayton Booher
Christian Fiction Book Reviews
CSFF Blog Tour
D. G. D. Davidson
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Donita K. Paul