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The Irregulars: Roald Dahl and the British Spy Ring in Wartime Washington

av Jennet Conant

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MedlemmarRecensionerPopularitetGenomsnittligt betygOmnämnanden
6482525,883 (3.21)44
Conant tells the story of young writer Roald Dahl who is assigned by His Majesty's Government to Washington, D.C. as a diplomat to gather intelligence about America's isolationist circles. In the course of his "spying," he meets or works closely with David Ogilvy, Ian Fleming, and the great spymaster William Stephenson (aka Intrepid).… (mer)

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Parts of this book were interesting, but I was expecting something more in the nature of a "true life spy thriller". A more appropriate description of the book is a "tell all, sex lives of the rich and famous, tabloid". ( )
  Brauer11431 | Apr 16, 2019 |
There were somewhat more parts of this books of which I would say "I liked it" than of which I would say "it was okay." Two and a half stars seems about right.

Roald Dahl wrote the two favorite books of my childhood: "James and the Giant Peach" and "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory." So there's a possible inherent interest in learning more about the early career of a creative writer. Moreover, the premise of "The Irregulars" sounds really interesting: Roald Dahl and a group of other young talented "dashing" British spies in wartime Washington DC! Moreover, one of those other young talented "dashing" British spies was Ian Fleming! But Dahl and Fleming had relatively little to do with one another.

And then you realize that the main focus of Dahl's "espionage" work involved collecting ordinary daily stories about the Vice-President, and also doing research on the post-war relationship of Britain and the United States regarding commercial international air travel. In other words, fairly mundane stuff. As author Conant admits, "A lot of what passed for espionage in those day could be described as enterprising reporting." [If you don't know what "cabotage" means and why it was important, you will learn about it here.] Interesting up to a point, but not exactly page-turning material.

There's something rather limiting about the scope of the book: the really genuinely important British spies in Washington DC during World War II were working for the Soviets! [Most notably Donald Maclean and Guy Burgess, who are only mentioned here in a brief footnote.]

What I did like from the book was the unexpected insight it provides into some of the internal politics of FDR's administration between Pearl Harbor and the elections of November 1944, in which Roosevelt won a remarkable fourth term. Dahl was never part of FDR's inner circle, but he was an occasional guest at Hyde Park, and kept particularly close tabs on the President's relationship with his peculiar and independent Vice President Henry Wallace. The young Dahl socialized often with Wallace, and they shared a very close mutual friend in the wealthy generous and ambitious Texas newspaper magnate Charles Marsh. I gained a lot of insight into Wallace in this book, something I didn't expect going into it.

I also picked up some interest historical gossip/trivia/factoids that I hadn't known before. Sir William Stephenson, head of "British Security Coordination" in the United Stated during World War II, was a Canadian by birth. Roald Dahl had an affair during the war with American Congressperson, playwright, and anti-communist crusader Claire Booth Luce. Charles Marsh's second wife Alice Glass was a long-time lover of future President Lyndon Johnson. And Patricia Neal, who became Dahl's first wife in 1952, had earlier been the lover of film icon Gary Cooper.

An earlier reviewer here noted Conant's peculiar mistake of describing Cardiff Wales as "a small fishing village". There are a few other howlers as well. In a previous era, an editor at a prestigious commercial firm like Simon and Schuster would have caught these errors. Times have changed! ( )
  yooperprof | Dec 11, 2017 |
Well researched, but I lost faith in the author very early on when she described Cardiff, where Dahl was born, as a small fishing village. At that time it was the capital of Wales and had a population of around 200,000. Unforgivable error. ( )
1 rösta Faradaydon | Sep 2, 2017 |
British spy ring in wartime Washington ( )
  JackSweeney | Jan 9, 2017 |
Less about Dahl then about those he associated with during the war. Dahl is probably the least interesting person in the book. ( )
1 rösta gaveedra | Jan 8, 2016 |
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Entertaining social history that also reveals a little-known aspect of an important literary figure’s life.
tillagd av John_Vaughan | ändraKirkus Review (Jun 29, 2011)
 
Roald Dahl is famous for his mischievous children’s stories. But as Jennet Conant reports in “The Irregulars,” he was also a British spy. Conant shows that Dahl, a former R.A.F. hero, parachuted himself into Washington blue-blood circles in 1942 and used his embassy post to begin spying on Britain’s closest and most important ally.

How much does all this have to do with World War II? Dahl’s stream of gossipy reports about the doings of the Washington glitterati were nectar for London. Every government, then and now, is keen to learn the inside dope. But what Conant never makes quite clear is whether Dahl ever supplied any information of real consequence.

Conant herself becomes so entranced by the glistening details she has excavated from oblivion that she never provides a coherent narrative. It’s a pity that Conant, a diligent researcher and gifted writer, has produced a mere trifle so conspicuously lacking the verve and panache of Dahl himself.

tillagd av kthomp25 | ändraNew York Times, JACOB HEILBRUNN (Oct 17, 2008)
 

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"No, it's not quite as bad as that. It's the unofficial force - the Baker Street irregulars . . . They can go everywhere, see everything, overhear every one." - Arthur Conan Doyle, The Sign of the Four
'Say from when you owe this strange intelligence . . ." - Macbeth I, iii
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It was an unseasonably warm spring evening in 1942, and between the cherry blossoms and soldiers in uniform, brightly lit shopwindows and partly darkened government buildings, wartime Washington was a strange sight.
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Conant tells the story of young writer Roald Dahl who is assigned by His Majesty's Government to Washington, D.C. as a diplomat to gather intelligence about America's isolationist circles. In the course of his "spying," he meets or works closely with David Ogilvy, Ian Fleming, and the great spymaster William Stephenson (aka Intrepid).

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