Book Launch of Charlatan by Catherine Jinks


I don’t think I’ve ever waxed lyrical about a book I haven’t read yet, but there’s a first time for everything right?

If you’ve heard of Catherine Jinks, it’s probably for her Evil Genius YA books. I first came across her work when I was studying to be a high school teacher. Pagan’s Crusade was a breath of fresh air into the YA field at the time. The main character’s voice was smart and so very sassy and unique. 

Fast forward a number of years (I’m going to make you work for that date) and a hefty writing career that has spanned children’s, YA, adult fiction and non fiction, Jinks’s new book Charlatan has just been released, and it looks like a ton of fun. We attended the book launch at Avid Reader book store (the indie store that took on a bunch of ‘men’s rights activists’ and won) this week, where Jinks spoke about her new baby with Rob Barclay from Radio National.

Charlatan is about a 19th century guy by the name of Thomas Guthrie Carr and charges raised against him by Eliza Gray, who accused him of mesmerising and raping her.  (Gray likened Carr to the Mad Dentist of Wynyard . I’ve put in a handy link for you. I’ll wait.)

After having burned his bridges in the UK, Carr came to Australia to try his luck here. Carr dealt in mesmerism and phrenology (the ‘science’ of determining a person’s personality by feeling the bumps on their head) and was essentially a showman. Jinks described him as ‘a fraud, a narcissist and a shameless self-promoter’. There were very few personal documents to be uncovered in her research, but Jinks said she was able to put together such a full picture of Carr due to his predilection to write up every little thing he did and put it in the paper.  Jinks said that she could count on Carr to never do the right thing, and she spent most of her time researching thinking ‘you’ve got to be kidding!’ as she uncovered each new indiscretion.

Charlatan is a true crime book, exploring the trial of Carr for the mesmerism and rape of Eliza Gray.  But if we know that mesmerism is a sham, what actually happened? 

By all counts merticularly researched (as Jinks’s work always is, and the 40 odd pages of reference materials certainly indicates it to be), I’m really looking forward to reading this one. You won’t regret adding this to your TBR.