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Presidents in Parody/Potus Geeks Book Review: The Remarkable Millard Fillmore

This is both a potus_geeks book review, and part of our series on Presidents in Parody.

As obscure US Presidents go, Millard Fillmore (fittingly number 13) is probably the most susceptible to satire, spoofing and lampooning. Perhaps his resemblance to the late comedian Rodney Dangerfield explains why poor Millard often gets "no respect". British author and journalist George Pendle takes it to a whole new level. In a style reminiscent of the late Douglas Adams, Pendle writes a hilarious faux biography of POTUS #13 entitled The Remarkable Millard Fillmore: The Unbelievable Life of a Forgotten President. And yes, I'm pretty sure it is a faux biography. (One reviewer on Goodreads complained of being duped by what she thought was a real Fillmore bio. Perhaps the cover photo of Millard astride a unicorn should have been a clue).

PendleBook.jpg

Pendle's gullible narrator describes the amazing discovery of a heretofore unknown set of Fillmore diaries in which the former president sets about retelling much of his remarkable life story. Though considered by most historians to be a hoax, the narrator is convinced that the diary is real, ascribing the reason that much of it is written in ballpoint pen (an invention which came over 60 years after Fillmore's death) to the fact that Fillmore must have also invented the writing instrument, but was too modest to brag about it. Pendle's Fillmore is a likeable and naive dullard, part Baron Munchhausen and part Forest Gump, who turns up unexpectedly at many strange places and times in history. These include a stint as a sumo wrestler in Japan, finding the source of the Nile, dueling Andrew Jackson, tightrope walking across Niagara Falls and being in the President's box at Ford's Theatre on the night of the Lincoln Assassination. He rubs shoulders with the likes of Edgar Allen Poe, Nat Turner, Chief Osceola, John Brown, and Dr. Henry Livingstone among many others. Don't look these events up in the history books, you probably won't find them. Pendle also incorporates the real details of Fillmore's life, though likely not precisely as they occurred.

There's also mystery involved as Fillmore tries to solve the mystery of the Masons and looks for a mysterious one-armed man (shades of Richard Kimball a.k.a. The Fugitive) who is trying to kill him. All of this comes to a scintillating climax as Fillmore's mysterious nemesis is revealed in the book's final chapter.

millard51

Serious historians lacking in a sense of humor seem to take great offense to this book,so if you're one of those, you might want to give this book a miss. One minor irritant is the plethora of footnotes in the book which are as much, if not more, hilarious than the text itself, but contained in annoyingly small print. But if you're a history geek looking for a break from the serious (or from those who take themselves too seriously) or if you just enjoy this kind of fun fiction, this is a quick and easy read* that will insert some laughs and smiles into your reading, while you marvel at how the author manages to weave in the historic events of the time.

(*Easy, except for the annoying small-print of the hilarious footnotes.)
Tags: abraham lincoln, andrew jackson, book review, millard fillmore
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