Gene Wilder - My French Whore (1 star)

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(Old Street Publishing)

With this slim slice of whimsy, legendary screen comedian Gene Wilder joins the long and undistinguished list of famous names flattered into thinking they could dash off a book as a means of stringing out their dwindling celebrity while collecting a fast buck. It comes as little surprise to discover that My French Whore started out life as a screenplay treatment. In the hands of Wilder’s erstwhile collaborator Mel Brooks, the tall premise, of a bilingual WW2 private from Milwaukee captured in No Man’s Land who survives by posing as a famous German spy, might have made an amusing farce.

Wilder, however, opts to play things straight, exchanging satire for cloying sentiment while skimping on such trifles as character development, credible dialogue and, indeed, point. From a man who spent the bulk of his professional life making people laugh, the most hilarious thing about his fiction debut is that he thinks people will shell out for a hardback of 170 miserable, double-spaced pages.

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