My French Whore

My French Whore

by Gene Wilder

Paperback(First Edition)

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Overview

My French Whore by Gene Wilder

The beloved actor and screenwriter Gene Wilder's first novel, My French Whore, set during World War I, delicately and elegantly explores a most unusual romance. It's almost the end of the war and Paul Peachy, a young railway employee and amateur actor in Milwaukee, realizes his marriage is one-sided. He enlists, and ships off to France. Peachy instantly realizes how out of his depth he is—and never more so than when he is captured. Risking everything, Peachy—who as a child of immigrants speaks German—makes the reckless decision to impersonate one of the enemy's most famous spies.

As the urbane and accomplished spy Harry Stroller, Peachy has access to a world he could never have known existed—a world of sumptuous living, world-weary men, and available women. But when one of those women—Annie, a young, beautiful and wary courtesan—turns out to be more than she seems, Peachy's life is transformed forever.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780312377991
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 02/05/2008
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 192
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.44(d)

About the Author

Gene Wilder (1933-2016) began acting when he was thirteen and writing for the screen since the early 1970s. After a small role in Bonnie and Clyde pulled him away from a career onstage, he was nominated for an Academy Award as Best Supporting Actor for his role as Leo Bloom in The Producers, which led to Blazing Saddles and then to another Academy nomination, this time for writing Young Frankenstein. Wilder has appeared in twenty-five feature films and a number of stage productions. His first book, about his own life, was Kiss Me Like A Stranger, and was followed by the novels My French Whore, The Woman Who Wouldn’t , What Is This Thing Called Love? and Something to Remember You By.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

March, 1918

I used to be a conductor on the train that ran back and forth from Milwaukee to Chicago. Two or three times a year I acted in our local community theater, playing small roles mostly, but occasionally I was given a featured role. When the Milwaukee Players were putting on a play called A Brave Coward, by Winslow Clarke, I was given the part of a cowardly soldier during the Civil War who chooses, for the first time, to do something heroic. This was the biggest role our director had ever given me.

Our community theater gave only three performances for each of our plays, and on the last night of A Brave Coward I was in the men's dressing room applying some Skolgie's theatrical glue onto a mustache I'd made out of crepe hair, pressing it hard above my upper lip, when our director walked in. His name was John Freidel, but all the actors called him "sir" because we were a little afraid of him.

He walked past the other men, who were getting into costumes and going over their lines, and came up to my chair. "You're late, Peachy," he said.

"Sorry, sir, I came right from work. The train was late."

"Sir" could be very sarcastic when he was giving notes, but I hadn't heard him yell at anyone yet. He was a tall man and I thought his knee would hurt when he kneeled down next to me on the hard wooden floor, but I certainly wasn't going to interrupt him. He spoke confidentially, but he was very intense.

"You've been way too soft these last few nights, Paul. Terribly gentle and polite. A coward isn't a coward all the goddamn time, you know? You're starting to act like you're scared to death. Will you loosen up for me tonight?"

"I'll try, sir," I said.

"When the curtain goes up, forget the goddamn audience! Pretend it's just a rehearsal. Will you do that for me, Paul?"

"I'll try."

Twenty minutes later my heart was in my throat. I heard the stage manager whisper "Go!" and the curtain went up. There was silence for a moment as the audience waited, and then the first line was spoken.

Thank goodness the play went well, and I know the audience liked me because they clapped especially loud when I took my bow during the curtain calls. I looked out into the audience while I was bowing and saw our director sitting in the front row. He gave me a smile and a little nod of approval.

When the play was over I kept my mustache on, which I had purposely made the color of my wife's auburn hair. I kept trying to picture Elsie when she saw it. Elsie and I had only been married for four and a half years, but the romantic part of our relationship seemed to have faded away, like the yellow roses in our backyard at the end of summer. I lived with Elsie and her mother in three rooms on the second floor of a small but clean house in the German-Polish section of Milwaukee.

On the bus ride home a pretty girl and a soldier were sitting across the aisle from me, holding hands. The girl smiled at me. Without thinking, I touched my mustache and smiled back at her. Her boyfriend turned and gave me a hard stare. I dropped my head, pretending to be reading my theater program.

When I got home I raced up the stairs and unlocked the kitchen door. There was a soft light coming from the half-open door of our bedroom. I stuck my head into the doorway.

"Look who's here!" I said, as rakishly as I could. Elsie was asleep, propped up against two big pillows, her long auburn hair spread out around her. A gas lamp was burning on the nightstand. The sound of my voice woke her.

"Oh, Paul," she said, still half asleep.

"I'm sorry, honey—I didn't know you were sleeping. How do you feel?"

"I was waiting up, and then I just dozed off," she said.

I made a tiny leap, trying to feature my mustache. "Look who's here!" I said.

"What time is it?" Elsie asked, trying to see the little table clock on my side of the bed.

"It must be a little past ten," I said. "How do you feel, Elsie?"

"Is my mother's light out?" she asked.

There wasn't any light coming from the adjoining bedroom.

"Yes, it's out," I said.

Still trying to get Elsie to notice my mustache, I made another little John Barrymore leap in the air and said,

"Look who's here, Elsie."

"Paul, if you're going to eat something, please hurry."

"I'm not hungry, Elsie."

"You must be starving," she said.

"No, I had something on the train. Honestly, I'm not hungry. How do you feel?"

"If you cared how I felt, would you have left me tonight?"

"Well . . . I did care, even though I left, so the answer must be 'Yes.' You look so pretty with your hair that way."

"I don't feel pretty."

"Isn't life funny, because you do look so pretty?"

"Thank you."

I walked up and sat beside her on the bed. "I brought you something, sweetheart."

"You didn't bring me another pastry?" she asked. "Oh, Paul, why do you do that?"

"It must be love," I said, taking her hand.

"You've still got makeup all over your face. Did you know that?"

"I must have forgotten—I was so excited after the play, and I wanted to get home before you went to sleep."

I leaned down and kissed her, then took off my trousers and underwear and socks, leaving on my shirt. I turned down the lamp and got into bed.

"Don't touch me like that, Paul."

"Why?"

"I don't feel like it," she said.

"Why?"

Elsie turned away. I lay next to her for a while, until I finally fell asleep.

The next morning I was punching tickets on the ride back to Milwaukee. The car was stuffed with soldiers and their girlfriends or wives. Mostly girlfriends, I think. Standing or seated, all the couples seemed to be kissing. A few of the older men and women were trying not to look. As I walked down the aisle my attention was caught by a passenger's newspaper.

Six Thousand German Guns Open Fire at 4:50 A.M.

2,500 British guns reply.

Copyright © 2007 by Gene Wilder. All rights reserved.

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My French Whore 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 22 reviews.
MaggieMGarcia More than 1 year ago
I Love how this book is well written the story and characters are great, I absolutely loved it, but it was too short, I feel like the end needed more details.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
But don't give up your day job.
Guest More than 1 year ago
What a charming and touching novel! When I first started to read it, I thought that maybe it might be disappointing because it seemed almost too light but when I finished reading it and closed the back cover, I felt compelled to linger and realized just how much I enjoyed the story. I was very impressed.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was a little skeptical at first about the book but decided to give it a chance since it's short. I was very pleasantly surprised! This book was such a good read i finished it in one afternoon. It's one of those books that makes you sigh and and smile while you read it. It reads like a black and white romance. Characters was very well developed and there were some laugh out loud moments, so be careful if you are reading this in a public place. All around a great sweet book. I highly recommend this book and his other book The Woman Who Wouldn't. Can't wait for more stuff from him!
figre on LibraryThing 7 days ago
Let¿s face it. There is only one reason this book was published ¿ the author¿s name. Now, if you are saying that about Steinbeck, or Salinger, or Silverberg, or several others, then it makes sense. If you are doing it to document the completeness of a good author¿s body of work, then you have a good reason for publication. Even if it is a new work by that author (albeit uneven) then there are reasons to move forward. If on the other hand, you say that about Krantz, or Collins, or Dr. Phil, then you are only continuing to foist the work of people-whose-only-ability-is-to-put-words-on-paper on a more-than-willing-to-accept-it world. (Let us pause ¿ the world does accept this work. [Silent tears fall.] Let us move on.) Somewhat less heinous is the publishing of books because the author is famous. Now, I am not talking about books that are truly just the thoughts of the author (in particular, books by comedians ¿ Seinfeld, Paula Poundstone, Bill Cosby, even one by Gene Wilder). Those are a niche served well by the practice. (Come to think of it, Jackie Collins fills a niche that is served well by the practice ¿ I guess I just don¿t believe that niche should exist; that people should be a little more discerning. [Sorry - honest, I¿ll walk away from this pulpit.]) I am referring to famous people trying to actually be authors. Publishers need to be more discerning ¿ looking for quality, rather than a name. This is not to say that famous people do not have the ability to write. For example, I have heard (though have not actually read the books) that Carrie Fisher and Fannie Flagg do a pretty good job. And, one would hope, this is the work of discerning publishers and editors working with what they have perceived to be talented authors to build a quality product.Mr. Wilder needs a good editor, a good publisher, a good advisor, or a mixture of all three. Then this book would be made into something worth reading, or he would be advised to stick with his strengths (of which writing fiction is not one). It is not that there is inherently anything wrong with the writing. It is that there is nothing in it worth praise. The narrative moves along, the story develops, and we just don¿t care. The end is telegraphed from afar, and it is an ending that just ¿ well, no other way to put it ¿ it just ends. The only plausible excuse is that this is his first foray into fiction. But I stand by the opening sentence of this paragraph because, if any of those had been evident, then this book would not be out amongst us. However, a name seems to make the unnecessary happen. The good news is that this brief piece (more novelette than novel) didn¿t take up much of my time. The bad news is that it did, indeed, take some of my time. (Final aside. ¿Why did you read this book in the first place?¿ My wife had heard interesting things about it. After reading it she indicated she would be interested in my take. I read through it and we compared notes. We agreed.)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
When I first saw this book I thought "Gene Wilder, it HAS to be ghost written, then I remebered Wilder got his statrt as a screenwriter, not an actor. This book is sad and whimsical and romantic, and well, sad. In it Wilder has poured his own sense of personal loss. It is true to the time perod, with a central character who it is not only easy to relate to, but easy to empathize with. It is an excellent book to read aloud, especially with someone you love. In fact it seems like all of Wilder's books are designed, by design ornot, to be read aloud. We especially enjoyed reading it and immediatelly after reading Wilder's other work "THE WOMAN WHO WOULDN'T".
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SlowreaderSA More than 1 year ago
A well thought out and brilliantly executed novel. It's characters are likeable and the plot is simple. A good read for a rainy day.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
treeh20 More than 1 year ago
Was very short. But it was a nice read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a delightfully deep stoy. It was our book group selection for this month. We had an interesting and stimulating time discussing the story. I kept thinking how wonderful it was to think of a very young Gene Wilder as the main charactor. It was a unique way to read with one thought for the story and one of the movie star. I recommend it for book groups.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was a quick read, and while it was entertaining in a sense, it was lacking in depth. The author wrote this like a screenplay with little character development and romanticism marred by stupidity.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I, too, read this in an entire day. I fell in love with the characters and their stories, and was so sad to say goodbye to them when the book was finished. A wonderful story, captivating characters, and a witty sense of humor!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I didn't know what to expect when I picked up this book. When I started the book, I couldn't put it down. Needless to say, I read the book in a day. It was wonderful, charming, funny, and very well written. The ending left me saying WOW over and over again. I could sense Gene Wilder's humor throughout the book, and it leaves you giddy. I am impressed on how well it was written, and how it captivates a reader. I look forward to his next book. Reading this book is a must. It's light reading, easy ready, and has a taste of historical fiction. Wonderful!
Guest More than 1 year ago
When I first saw this I thought this was going to be like all the other celebrity crossovers...a total failure, but I was pleasantly suprised by Wilder's amazing grasp of English. The writing in this novel is absolutely brilliant. The characters are all extremely likeable and are easy to identify with. The only thing I did not care for was the length. I wished it would go on for much longer than it does. All in all a great read for anyone.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I love the story, the characters and character Paul would be speaking out, and I did meet Gene Wilder is a great actor and author and I really loved this book very much.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was probably the fifteenth person in line for Gene Wilder's book signing. I've no idea how long the line ended up being as it wrapped around the 5th Ave. Barnes & Noble in Manhattan. Sometime, during the wait, Gene Wilder himself walked along the line strolling down the street unnoticed by most of us. He was lost in a sea of New Yorkers. There weren't any guards or store personnel accompanying him. Just Gene. Inside, when I met Gene, I told him it was an honor to meet him and he thanked me. He was cool and calm and his presence had a way of putting people at ease. That same presence gets channeled through Gene's creative endeavors as well. His novel, which I finished a few days after meeting him, possesses that same soothing sense of life even in the midst of war. Peachy, an actor turned private turned faux spy, embodies all of Gene Wilder's serenity and sincerity. So for me, I couldn't help but imagine Gene as the main character. The words aren't flowery or confusing. The plot isn't Pulitzer material. Yet, there's something in the writing, the style, the voice that transports the reader's emotion. You feel for Annie, the French whore. The novel was very entertaining to read because I was able to feel connections running through it. This is probably Gene's own experiences reinforcing the narrative. Overall this book is great reading material. It is light-hearted with poetic imagery and just the right touch of Gene's comic genius. My advice is buy it today.
harstan More than 1 year ago
In 1918 in Milwaukee, Paul Peachy wonders if that is all there is to life as he nears thirty. His work as a train conductor is boring his marriage has no spark and he is just tired of achieving nothingness. Thus Paul, who has not seen much beyond Wisconsin and tracks, enlists in the military.------------- In France, Paul offers the military one skill or else he would be just another expendable unknown soldier. His company commander Captain Harrington wants Paul, who speaks German, to interrogate spy, Harry Stroller, expecting his country to lose soon and unable to cope with his loneliness and ennui, surrendered to the allies. Sent to the front, Paul flees the battle only to be captured by the German army. He insists that he is master spy Harry Stroller and soon meets and convinces Colonel Steinig that he is a German agent his host introduces him to French hooker Annie Breton. They share a wonderful tryst until Paul realizes Harrington is a prisoner. He arranges for his former commander to escape, but stays behind to be with his beloved prostitute though he knows the gig will be up soon.------------ This is an entertaining WWI romance starring an interesting lead male. The common thread of the warriors from both sides of the battle is languor with risk taking becoming the norm just to bring some excitement into their lives. Readers will appreciate Gene Wilder¿s fine tale of love in the trenches.----------- Harriet Klausner
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Either Barnes & Noble screwed up my records, or they let somebody use my identity/membership to buy this Gene Wilder book, because I didn't. They asked me to write a review, so I am reviewing their performance.