John Pitman, Jr. didnt want to become a doctor. His father had been one and had faileda die-hard who had clung to cupping and purging as a means of ridding the bodys impurities. But as a stevedore on the docks of San Francisco no one could mend broken bones like John Pitmans lanky son Jack. Finally the young lad decides: If he is to become a doctor, he will be the best. INSIDE THE BARBARY COAST is where Jack Pitman chooses to open his medical practice. It is an area of San Francisco filled with saloons, parlor houses and opium dens, bordering on Chinatown. Fresh out of medical school, Jack saves the life of a young Chinese prince who is an actor in Dr. Pierre Louthans medical show. Louthan did not go to medical school but easily passes off as a learned physician with his European manner, silver-tongued ability to converse on any subject relating to anatomy, and his courses of treatment that involve a growing array of patent medicines. Jack falls in love with Louthans assistant, Marie, not realizing she is married to the quack doctor. Although Jacks nurse, the wise Madam Wong, cautions the young doctor, he is smitten nonetheless and fathers a child Louthan believes is his. Jack fights to discredit the huckster, hoping Marie will see Louthan as a charlatan and leave him. She, however, has plans of her own and manages to snare Jack in her own secret web. As Jack becomes consumed in his new practice, he tries valiantly to save the life of Hawaiis King David Kalakaua who is dying at the Palace Hotel. His friend, Gentleman Jim Corbett, the famous boxer, plays a role, as does Adolph Sutro, San Franciscos flamboyant mayor who built the famous Sutro Baths near the Cliff House facing the sea. Jack embraces electro-therapeutics because he believes it is the frontier of the New Medicine. When a prominent socialite is accidentally electrocuted in his office, he dismisses electrotherapy altogether and labels X-rays as another quack fad. But he is wrong and discovers his miscalculation just as tong wars break out in Chinatown and as President McKinley sends 10,000 young troops past the Golden Gate on their way across the Pacific to the Philippines. The young doctor from the Barbary Coast hones his surgical skills while serving as a medic in the Spanish-American War. When he returns, Marie still loves him but cannot find justification to divorce her husband. The bubonic plague hits San Francisco, giving the unions ammunition in their fight to exclude more Chinese from immigrating to the United States. Meanwhile, the always-scheming Dr. Louthan concocts a new patent medicine that increases sexual vigor. It is based on the findings of a European endocrinologist. Louthan experiments on himself, resulting in a fight with Marie that leaves their relationship damaged. But Pierre will not grant his wife a divorce, spurring Jack to join other physicians in San Francisco and around the country to discredit Louthan and other quack doctors like him. The plan works, and Louthan finds the underpinning to his nostrum business slipping away. Jack and Marie have just attended Enrico Carusos performance of Don Jos and taken a room at the Palace Hotel when a devastating earthquake rocks San Francisco. It is April 18, 1906. Shaken out of bed, Jack puts Marie in a taxi to go home and heads to the Pacific Anatomical Museum where he finds Louthan has been trapped by a fallen beam. As a fire erupts and flames begin licking their way closer, Nate Nordstrand, an old friend of Jacks who now works for Louthan, swings a fire ax to amputate the quack doctors leg to free him from the beam and encroaching inferno. But Nate is not finished and swings again, this time squarely across Louthans neck. An eye for an eye, he shouts, Jack knowing the full meaning of his cry. Jack returns home and finds th
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About the Author
David Jensen, 46, is a former newspaper reporter and correspondent now working in international public relations. He began his writing career during high school as a cub reporter and went on to work for major daily newspapers in Arizona and New York, becoming the youngest reporter ever to be credentialed at the White House in 1977. He and his family lived in the San Francisco area from 1984 until 1990. His heart is still there.