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The Unknown Dahl

  • Sep 23, 2008
  • by
Conant. Jennet. "The Irregulars: Roald Dahl and the British Spy Ring in Wartime Washington', Simon and Schuster, 2008.

The Unknown Dahl

Amos Lassen

There is something about a spy story that keeps me riveted and a true story will definitely hold my attention. Jennet Conant's "The Irregulars" is a fantastic read which I had a hard time putting down. I have always loved the literary works of Roald Dahl since having first studied him in college but I would have never thought of him being a spy. He had been assigned by the British throne as a diplomat to Washington in 1942 and he had also been given a secret mission. He was to gather evidence about the isolationist policies of the United States and he managed his infiltration and laid the seeds for the American entry into World War II.
With the attention of the United States focused on what was going in the Pacific and even though we had been technically at war wit Germany (although non-officially) since December, 1941, not much attention was paid to Dahl set out to exert public opinion and change the opinions of the Washington governmental elite. We also learn that he was not alone in his covert activities and other spies working were David Oglivy and Ian Fleming who were his co-conspirators.
We learn now that the alliance between Britain and America was replete with covert activity. Conant gives the whole story with a lot of detail and in doing so she allows us to gain a new understanding on the nature of the relationship between Churchill and Roosevelt. Roald Dahl seemed to be able to be everywhere. He wanted to save his country from an invasion by Nazi Germany and to protect his country he forced himself to invade almost all aspects of American government as well as the Washington society and winning over many including the First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt. He built friendships with the powerful and used what he learned.
It was not Dahl who was the mastermind of the deception. Walter Stephenson (code name, Intrepid) did this. He was a confidant of Churchill and his chief spy and he managed, with the permission of Franklin Roosevelt, to set up a campaign of subversion and propaganda that caused the weakening of America's isolationism. This ultimately brought America to declare war against Germany.
"The Irregulars" is non-fiction that reads like a first-class spy novel. Conant has done her research well and gives us a book that is readable, informative and thoroughly enjoyable.

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More The Irregulars: Roald Dahl and... reviews
review by . September 27, 2008
Episodic narrative of author Roald Dahl's role in the World War II British spying efforts in America. This ground, as Conant acknowledges, has been many times plowed already, so she doesn't attempt an exhaustive history, but relies on synopses, brief biographies, and moderately interesting anecdotes to drive this inconsequential account. Dahl was a sometimes appealing but often abrasive character in his own right, who has been the subject of many biographies and memoirs, for example Roald Dahl: …
review by . November 30, 2008
"The Irregulars" revolves around Roald Dahl and his activities during World War II, but at times it's almost easy to forget the main character as details of other interesting people are described. A huge portion of this book is about Charles Marsh and Washington D.C. social and political life.    The discussion of what role the United States should play in world politics is very interesting background to the political concerns of today.    Some of my favorite …
review by . November 20, 2008
So up front let me say, I haven't finished this book. I probably won't. It's not bad or anything like that, just a bit... uninteresting. This is something of a surprise since I like reading about WWII and loved Roald Dahl's books back when I was a wee youngster.    It's not poorly written or anything, it's just that the subject completely failed to grab my attention. I wish I could say more here, but I really can't. It's possible you may enjoy it more than I did.
review by . September 30, 2008
In peace or in war, allies spy on each other, sometimes overtly, but most often covertly. Despite their close association in World War II and the desperate need that Great Britain had for U. S. aid, the British maintained a spy and information apparatus in the United States during the war years. This effort was under the overall guidance of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and involved the dissemination of pro-British and anti-Axis propaganda in concert with a conventional spying operation. …
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Amos Lassen ()
Ranked #210
I am an academic who reivews movies and books of interest to the GLBT and Jewish communities.   I came to Arkansas after having been relocated here due to Hurricane Katrina. I was living in … more
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Amazon Best of the Month, September 2008: Long before Willy Wonka sent out those five Golden Tickets, Roald Dahl lived a life that was moreJames BondthanJames and the Giant Peach. After blinding headaches cut short his distinguished career as a Royal Air Force fighter pilot, Dahl became part of an elite group of British spies working against the United States' neutrality at the onset of World War II.The Irregularsis a brilliant profile of Dahl's lesser-known profession, embracing a real-life storyline of suave debauchery, clandestine motives, and afternoon cocktails. If this sounds oddly familiar, it's no coincidence: both Ian Fleming (the creator of 007) and Bill Stephenson (the legendary spymaster rumored to be the inspiration for Bond) were members of the same outfit. Although "Dahl...Roald Dahl" doesn't quite carry the same debonair ring, there is no discrediting this fascinating look at the British author's covert service to the Allied cause during WWII. --Dave Callanan
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ISBN-10: 0743294580
ISBN-13: 978-0743294584
Author: Jennet Conant
Genre: History, Nonfiction
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
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"The Unknown Dahl"
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