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Lunch » Tags » Books » Reviews » The Irregulars: Roald Dahl and the British Spy Ring in Wartime Washington » User review

An in-depth look at another side of the wartime relationship between Great Britain and the United States

  • Sep 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.
One of the principles in the British effort was Raold Dahl, now best known for his fiction books "James and the Giant Peach" and "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory." A former pilot in the Royal Air Force, he was transferred to the United States after suffering injuries in a crash that prevented him from ever flying again. Another member of the British spy apparatus was Ian Fleming, the creator of the superspy James Bond character.
As is documented in this fascinating book, the British spies easily ingratiated themselves into the American social and political society. While they had contacts among American journalists, political figures and rich society types, Dahl was very much a womanizing playboy; his conduct was very similar to that of the virile Bond. As a handsome, dashing foreigner in a world where such men were absent, he found himself having the pick of women, most of which were happy to engage in sexual affairs. All for king and country of course.
The most interesting point of the book is the tension that arose between the United States and Great Britain in the later parts of the war. One point of dispute was over the allocation of commercial airline routes, many of which would use the airports that had been built or expanded to service the warplanes. A second point was the position of the two nations regarding the disposition of the European colonies once the war was over. Many of the colonies would be wrested back from the Japanese and the rhetoric from the United States was that they should be granted independence. Thus was an affront to the British desire to maintain their empire, although any rational consideration would have made it clear that the days of British control over most of the Empire were numbered.
This book presents a side of the Second World War that is rarely mentioned, as the point of most historical accounts is to present the two allies in a lockstep march to victory. Great power rivalries are a fact of political existence, even when the nations are engaged in a life-or-death struggle with other nations, a point that should be made more often.

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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 23, 2008
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 …
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Charles Ashbacher ()
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Charlie Ashbacher is a compulsive reader and writer about many subjects. His prime areas of expertise are in mathematics and computers where he has taught every course in the mathematics and computer … 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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