Random House, 2017

Available from
Angus & Robertson


Thomas Guthrie Carr was charged by Eliza Gray with mesmerising her and raping her while she was under his influence. But if mesmerism and Mr Carr were shams, was Eliza really raped?

With a driving narrative and novelistic pacing, this scrupulously researched account of the life of Thomas Guthrie Carr, stage mesmerist – who lied, fought and sleazed his way around Australia and New Zealand between 1865 and 1886 – is more than just a fascinating piece of social history. It’s also a mystery, a true crime story and a slyly humorous portrait of a man whose ferocious pursuit of fame and fortune made him an oddly contemporary figure.

With a  supporting cast that includes the Duke of Edinburgh, the Mad Dentist of Wynyard, the Nunawading Messiah and a host of shady mesmerists, spiritualists, phrenologists and hired goons, Charlatan delves deeply into a forgotten side of colonial history.

Catherine Jinks has struck gold tracing the story of this larger-than-life figure who has rated barely a footnote in Australian colonial history. Zesty, well-researched and highly readable, Charlatan … is an engaging portrait of the consummate, archetypal Victorian showman … Jinks deftly weaves her biography around his legal drama and its aftermath, giving the book a strong narrative thread and an opportunity to examine the arcane moral standards of the time.
The Australian

‘… [a] rollicking, lively and entertaining study …’
The Sydney Morning Herald

‘Jinks’s always engaging, fast-moving narrative … [is] sprinkled with humour, scandal and nuggets of history … The portrait is of an era, not just of a man …’
Sisters In Crime

‘[An] excellent piece of historical detective work … very well written
and constantly interesting.’

  • Tom Storm

    Dear Ms Jinks,

    What a terrific interview on ABC Radio National (02/02/2018)- a reminder of what a marvelous rogue’s history we have in Australia. There were remnants of it in the 1950′s (my pre-teen childhood) when swaggies, gypsies, tinkers, itinerant knife sharpeners and small circuses still plied their crafts and diminishing arts. Ignorance, pseudo science and gullibility (or maybe innocence) kept them alive beyond their shelf date. I feel you captured something greater than just the story of a rogue showman and quack. Even in the 1960′s there were phrenologists working the Sunday afternoon crowds in Sydney’s domain…maybe you could tackle the eminent Domain speakers who were colorful and fearless in their promotion of tortured thinking and twisted philosophy standing on their soap boxes back then.

    Anyway – I just wanted to say well done – because it was.


  • Catherine Jinks

    Thank you so much, Tom! Phrenologists in the 1960s? Really? I did not know that. I must admit that while researching my book, I was amazed at how RACKETY the mid-Victorian era in this country was – so many people doing so many wacky things, and so much mixing of the classes – far more than I’d realised. It was all strangely modern, in a way. And fascinating of course.

    Speakers in the Domain? That’s an interesting topic. If you’re not going to tackle it yourself, I might have a think about it ….

  • Joan Bartlett

    Dear Ms Jinks

    Heard your interview on RN and, as a result, bought the book, which arrived today. My interest is to find out if your research led you to any connections with Fred Bell (“the Rev Fred Bell”, “Dr Fred Bell”, “Dr Frederic Bell”). I went first to look at your book’s index, but there is none. Fred plied the same type of trade as Dr Carr and was really notorious, given the desultory research I have undertaken (Fred is an ancestor of an extended family member and I “found” him in my family tree work). Fred was born in Sheffield UK in 1826, but his greatest notoriety seems to have been in the US (New York). He also travelled to Australia, to Sydney and Brisbane I think- but I can find little about this. Fred was known as “the singing preacher”. He was always on the run from the authorities for some reason or another, and scandals involving women feature largely. (He did mindreading and all that stuff on stage too). The interesting thing for me has been how his talents: Music, stage and writing has persisted down the generations – at high levels too. So, long story, but did you come across Fred Bell, the singing preacher in your research? I now look forward to reading about Thomas Guthrie Carr. Thank you.

    • Celeste Bell

      Hi Joan. I was wondering if you could get in touch with me. I am a direct descendant of Fred Bell and I’m looking for more information on him and his family. My email is

  • Catherine Jinks

    I’m afraid I never did come across Fred Bell, that I can recall, but I wish I had. He sounds FASCINATING. Have you tried looking him up on ‘Trove’? I bet if you went to the newspaper database and entered variants of his name you’d find something – as long as he wasn’t working under a pseudonym. I’m surprised I didn’t encounter him, because all those types used to cross paths a bit in Australia (unless, of course, he was a little later than Carr).

    Thanks very much for buying my book, which needs all the help it can get. I’m sorry there isn’t an index; the notes almost killed me, and since the publisher didn’t insist on an index, I gratefully didn’t bother with one. I suppose I’ve been spoiled by years of writing fiction …

  • Alex Cayas

    Hi Catherine Jinks, I am writing to see if you would be interested to take part in an authors talk event series here in The Blue Mountains. My email address is

    Would love you to give a talk based on this fascinating book.

  • stacia jones

    I run statistical reports on a monthly basis here to track our top ten most checked out books and Evil Genius is in our TOP TEN this month! I love this and thought you’d enjoy knowing this too!

    TK Stone Middle School
    323 Morningside Dr.
    Elizabethtown KY 42701

    • Catherine Jinks

      I do enjoy knowing this too! Thanks very much! Good to hear that Evil Genius is still chugging along way over there in the U.S.!

  • Jake

    Hi I just finished listening to The Road and enjoyed it. I may have missed it but what happened to the kid, do we assume he made it to inform the police? Cheers Jake

    • Catherine Jinks

      Thanks for the thumbs-up, Jake! I’m afraid it’s been a long, long time since I wrote that book, and my memory of it is a bit fuzzy, but I do know that Peter made it out – if that’s who you’re talking about? I’m afraid the other little kid in the wombat hole was shot …

      • Jake

        I must have missed a little bit about the shots in the wombat hole. I had thought he wasn’t in there. Poor bugger. Cheers

  • Tim O’Shea

    Hello Catherine
    I was wondering if in your research for Charlatan, you came across two other mesmerists, Professor Armand, active in the Hunter Valley region in the early 1880s and in SE Queensland March 1883-October 1885, and a Professor Willis (Richard Henry Willis) active in 1888 in Sydney. The latter also worked as a herbalist in Sydney 1887-1893 under the name Dr Smith, when he was implicated in a number deaths investigated by the coroner. These details I’ve gleaned from Trove. Willis fled Melbourne in the early 1880s after the collapse of his bank, leaving debts of 25,000 L. My working hypothesis is that Armand and Willis are one and the same. Willis is my partner’s great-great-grandfather. I’m trying to get a better insight into his life.
    Thank you for any information or guidance you may be able to provide.
    Tim O’Shea

    • Catherine Jinks

      Oooooo, Tim. How INTERESTING. I tell you, what pieces of work these mesmerists were! Unfortunately, I was concentrating on the ones hanging around during Carr’s heyday, and by the 1880s he was at the end of his tether, stuck out in regional NSW, and he didn’t seem to have much to do with anyone else. I remember I knocked up against a few other mesmerists during my researches, but they were earlier, in Sydney and New Zealand chiefly. One of them called himself a ‘professor’ but I seem to recall he was in Melbourne. I think I mentioned him in my book. Wish I could help you more. I wouldn’t be surprised if Armand and WIllis were the same person, since the profession seemed to attract dodge con-men, but it’s amazing how many mesmerists seemed to pop up in the colonies. The one that really interested me was the female one – I can’t remember her name off the top of my head. She was active more or less down the street from Carr, and she was also an abortionist and assaulted various people. VERY interesting. I’ve always thought she deserved her own book ….

      • Tim O’Shea

        Willis is very interesting. Born near Geelong in the 1830s to Methodist farming stock, he moved with wife and two children to the Houghton River goldfields in Queensland around 1864, where my partner’s great-grandfather was born. He established the Cardington Hotel, where he was shot and robbed by The Wild Scotsman, James McPherson. Eventually he headed back to Victoria. H ed is reported to be a debt collector in Melbourne, issuing fake summonses to threaten debtors. The came the bank debacle and his flight from Melbourne. He lrft hid wifd behind, but “married” again in Brisbane September 1885 who he lived with in Sydney. He died 1894.

  • Ian J Carr

    A friend bought me a copy of Charlatan, thinking that Guthrie Carr may have been related to me. My Carr forebears came from the same area of England. Carr is a common name there. I have attempted to make a family connection – without success so far. HOWEVER !!! it turns out that Guthrie Carr married Jane Ann Ireland, the first cousin of my wife’s 2nd-great grandmother who was also named Jane Ann (nee Jackson, Married G. Saxby).

  • Catherine Jinks

    Aha! Yes, Carr isn’t the most unusual name, and I had a hard time tracing Thomas Guthrie’s forebears in England. But Jane Ann Ireland had a much clearer family tree, thanks to her father’s criminal record! The poor woman was surrounded by dodgy characters – though I guess her dad came good in the end, unlike her husband. If you ever find a picture of Guthrie Carr, I’d love to see it. I never could …

  • Ian J Carr

    I enjoyed your book. I have a special interest in quackery and its purveyors. I will keep an eye out for photos in my travels.

  • Ralph Jackson

    “One of them called himself a ‘professor’ but I seem to recall he was in Melbourne. I think I mentioned him in my book.”… Can I ask was this a ‘Professor Leslie’, an alias of my Gt Gt Uncle Maurice Krone? He was a mesmerist in Melbourne and doing the rounds in country Victoria 1860s to 1880s.

  • Catherine Jinks

    I honestly can’t remember, Ralph – it’s so long since I wrote the book. ‘Professor Leslie’ isn’t ringing any bells, though.