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

Unlike several other readers who have reviewed this, I didn t find this book boring in the least The pacing toward the beginning is a bit awkward, as the author makes the mistake of introducing the entire cast of characters in a big info dump at the beginning which makes them all run together, but once you get past that, the book is a lively, wry, well written, scrupulously honest account of Dahl s small part in Britain s top secret spy agency and propaganda machine within the US during WWII I picked this book up because I m a fan of Roald Dahl s later writing, so it was great fun to learn about how intimately connected his spy and literary careers were It s a bit mind boggling to imagine the crusty looking man in the open toed sandals on the back cover of The BFG hobnobbing with the political elite, spending Independence Day with FDR at his private family home, and seducing heiresses and socialites, but really, that seems to be the whole purpose of the book You ll enjoy this if you re a Roald Dahl fan, if not just for the exchange of blisteringly satirical letters exchanged by Dahl and his friend Charles Marsh mocking the British ambassador. Jennet Conant s book The Irregulars promises much but delivers little You d think that a book that chronicled the activities of a British spy ring in WWII Washington would involve exciting tales of clandestine missions and other cloak and dagger activities Unfortunately, Dahl s activities were limited to spying on various Washington socialites who had political leanings that the British considered dangerous, and through his friend and benefactor Charles Marsh, reported on the Vice President Henry Wallace, who was considered by both governments to be potentially harmful to Roosevelt s chances for re election Through his friendship with Eleanor Roosevelt he was able to spend occasional weekends at the White House and Hyde Park, all of which he reported back to his bosses The majority of Dahl s reports were concerned with the allies post war plans for civilian aviation routes, a topic so mind numbingly tedious that you ll find yourself skimming large sections of the book just to get to the next party scene.The information on the careers of Fleming and Stevenson doesn t go much beyond the surface and can be gleaned from other, better books Tedium aside, The Irregulars still succeeds on two fronts, as a Biography of Dahl s formative years, and as a time capsule of the social scene in the Capitol during WWII If you are a fan of either Roald Dahl or gossip columns and society pages, you might find something in this book to hold your interest Otherwise I suggest you look to 109 East Palace for an example of Conant at her best. Book ♎ The Irregulars: Roald Dahl and the British Spy Ring in Wartime Washington ♔ During The Desperate Winter Of , As The Threat Of German Invasion Hung Over England, The British Government Mounted A Massive, Secret Campaign Of Propaganda To Weaken The Isolationist Sentiment In America And Manipulate The Country Into Entering The War On England S Behalf Under The Command Of The Now Legendary INTREPID, The British Planted Propaganda In American Newspapers, Covertly Influenced Radio Stations And Wire Services, And Plotted Against American Corporations Doing Business With The Third Reich They Also Pushed President Roosevelt To Create A Similar Covert Intelligence Agency In The US, And Played A Role In The Selection Of William Donovan As Its Head Now For The First Time, With Great Research And Reporting, Jennet Conant Reveals That The Beloved Author Roald Dahl Was A Member Of Churchill S Infamous Dirty Tricks Squad, And Tells The Full Story Of How He Was Recruited To Spy On The Americans During World War II This book wasn t what I thought it would be It was basically a list noting a slew of people mostly famous or well known people the main character, Roald Dahl, met and dealt with and detailed his known activities I only made it to page 74 so maybe it picked up after that, but I found it quite boring This was a very detailed piece of non fiction that wasn t much fun to read and maybe it wasn t meant to be, but you d think a book chronicling the life of a spy would be.From the 74 pages I read I d give this one a 1.5 It could pick up after that, but I won t be going out of my way to get this one back from the library. I m not really sure I ve ever been so disappointed by a book And let me be clear nobody in the world loves this group of spies than I do And if you were to stand here and ask me, I would tell you to go write your own fanfiction about Ian Fleming and Christopher Lee and Ian Fleming and Roald Dahl sitting around the Beverly Hills Hotel laughing about what they ve made American audiences believe this time That s likely to be both coherent and entertaing If you do that, btw, please let me know I d love to read it Here s the problem The author didn t have nearly enough material about Roald Dahl working in espionage to fill up a book, but had too much information to do nothing In addition, I m pretty sure the book was really supposed to be about Charles Marsh, because he s the one the story seems to center around indeed, after he dies, the book ends Most of the material seems to have come from Marsh s daughter by one of his four wives, but I don t have any idea which one Except nobody but the author and the daughter know who Charles Marsh is, so that book would be a pretty tough sell Indeed, had I known how much space he was going to take up in a book allegedly about Roald Dahl, I would have passed on it all together I will save you the trouble Charles Marsh started out as a Texan who owned a bunch of newspapers who made a bunch of money and moved to Washington in hopes of buying influence Possibly unintentionally, the narrative makes it pretty clear that his efforts were wasted, as Roosevelt didn t want anything to do with him But Rob, you re thinking It s right there in the title Roald Dahl AND the British Spy ring It s right there Yeah So we get like three appearances from Noel Coward, David Ogilvy a name with which I was apparently supposed to be familiar but am not slightly often, the occasional dash of Ian Fleming, and then a cast of thousands I couldn t keep straight even after giving up in frustration and writing down their names.Apart from the problem with pacing, there s a definite chronology problem I nearly hurled my kindle across the Panera when, in the space of one page, we jumped from 1946 to 1952 to 1963 and then back to 1944 When the war was over and Roosevelt had died and the book STILL wouldn t end, Dahl and his wife go from being arguing newlyweds to the parents of three, two of whom weren t called out by name, in the space of three paragraphs The death of that same wife and acquisition of a new wife are covered in one paragraph I have no idea if their daughters didn t wish to be named or were legally excluded from being named, or what the deal was It was just infuriating The entire last chapter, in fact, should have been either completely cut out, or else expanded to explain who all these people were that suddenly reappeared in the narrative.In a discussion of his post war life, there is a sentence that says Dahl returned to writing children s books , except that we haven t really seen him writing any children s books up to that point Not anywhere Sure, there was Gremlins, which he wrote and sold to Disney, but he was in the business of propaganda, and Disney didn t publish many spy novels during that era Dahl s writing efforts previous to this were short stories that were definitely not intended for children.As another reviewer pointed out, there are chapters where Roald Dahl makes what amounts to a cameo appearance, because his story wasn t the focus I learned than I ever wanted to know about Wallace, the VP to Roosevelt during Roosevelt s third term Well after he became irrelevant, he kept popping up in the story.The best thing I can say about this novel is that the foreward was far entertaining than the rest of the book, and even it left out a bunch of things I would like to have seen discussed I had planned to read this same author s next book about Paul and Julia Child, but I m so annoyed with this one, I m probably just going to skip it Mostly because I want to read a book about Paul and Julia Child, not whoever the author chooses to write about this time.Download the sample, read the foreward, walk away That s it That s my recommendation. Having read two of Dahl s memoirs earlier in the year, I was keen to read of his exploits during World War II This warts and all presentation of Dahl proved to be something of an eye opener, though I found at times the account so meticulous in its painstaking chronicling of the political maneuvering of Dahl and his cohorts that it got bogged down. Not sure how to review this It was quite readable.Dahl and his ring of people are basically just big gossips We don t whether he actually DID anything But the British tried to move the Americans to war during WWII long before America was ready to go to war Congress was, to a large extent, dominated by isolationists And much of this book was about a newspaper publisher from Texas named Charles Marsh who doesn t ring a bell with me, but that may not mean much and about William Stephenson, who tried to control William Donovan and the OSS Now Donovan may have needed some help at the beginning, but Stephenson seemed to think it meant that he was in charge And I really did not need to know who LBJ was having affairs with.Dahl had been briefly an RAF pilot but was apparently injured quite early on And after the war, Conant represents that he was still pretty much tied to his mother s apron strings All of her children settled very near her Of course, I don t know what her age was at this point.I was essentially giving this 2 1 2 stars. This was a fascinating book, in that it managed somehow to be incredibly interesting and remarkably dull at the same time I think it succeeds far as a biography of Roald Dahl s wartime years in Washington than it does as an exploration of the activities of the British Security Commission.For all the title of this book, this is hardly a James Bond story, although Ian Fleming himself does make a guest appearance as another of the BSC s recruits There is very little skulduggery, breaking and entering, safe cracking, or any other kind of activity one might associate with wartime spies This is spying as political intrigue, as rumour, gossip, propaganda and the currency of information The BSC s main role in Washington was to manoeuvre America into taking on a active role in the war, by demonising and vilifying the Nazis and playing up the role of plucky little Britain, fighting against the odds and needing all the help it could get After Pearl Harbor, when America entered the war on the side of the Allies, the BSC s role shifted into one of jockeying for post war position alongside America and Russia.I knew nothing of Roald Dahl other than the somewhat grandfatherly figure who wrote many of the books I remember as a child, so it was interesting to read about him as a young, dashing RAF pilot gadding about Washington society interacting with the great and the good His role in the BSC seemed to consist of little than passing on gossip and information, hobnobbing with the wealthy and influential and using that position to influence events The role seems much akin to a modern political lobbyist than a spy, not quite the role one might expect from the title. This is the little known story of the British Security Coordination BSC which was set up in the US by Winston Churchill, to help prod the Americans into joining the Second World War This was run by William Stephenson, who used a number of different agents to help undermine the isolationists, gauge public opinion and generally interfere in American policy and opinions He cleverly used many people who were not traditional spies, but involved and recruited celebrities, such as Noel Coward and Leslie Howard, as well as anybody he felt could mix comfortably in Society The BSC also ran a Rumour Factory, which sent misleading stories out whether through gossip columns, newspapers or dropped casually at dinner parties.One of the those recruited by the BSC was Roald Dahl, obviously best known now as a children s author He was, we discover, sometimes viewed with suspicion because of his Norwegian background, but he was, in fact, very much patriotic, committed and loyal to England Flight Lieutenant Roald Dahl was invalided out of the war at the age of twenty five, after being injured in a flight accident Longing to get back to active combat, he was not impressed when told that he would be sent to Washington as part of a diplomatic delegation, but was told that he would be doing an important job Indeed he did Young, attractive, amusing, he was sent out to befriend and influence those in power and he succeeded very well One of his first confidants was the Texas oil tycoon and publishing magnate, Charles Edward Marsh He also became friendly with Eleanor Roosevelt, and was soon familiar with many socialites and present at endless soirees and dinner parties eavesdropping and encouraging confidences, which were passed back to Stephenson Stephenson is, himself, a fascinating character A man involved in electronics and the early British film industry, as well as aviation He passed information gathered on his travels to friends in prominent positions of influence and eventually came to the notice of Churchill, who was then First Lord of the Admiralty When Churchill later appointed him head of British secret operations in the US it was with the brief to spread propaganda to strengthen the interventionist cause and undermine the isolationists In this book we have some very interesting tales of this fledgling branch of the secret service in action Ian Fleming was one well known name who was involved There are some funny scenes such as the tale by Ivar Bryce who was sent to meet an agent in a bar Unfortunately, on entering and searching for the man he was to meet, to be recognised by a folded newspaper under his arm, he immediately spied his cousin who he certainly was not expecting to encounter There then unfolded an embarrassing situation where Bryce attempted not to notice his cousin, the two men steadfastly ignoring each other at the bar, before finally realising that he was, in fact, the fellow spy he was meant to approach Indeed, there are many such anecdotes, of typical British bungling, a lack of discretion and some pretty dodgy security Still, all involved did their best to further British interests and they undoubtedly helped to influence public and political opinion An interesting book about a little known part of WWII, with a fascinating cast of characters. It s rather shocking to discover one of your favorite children s authors was a spyagainst your own country Roald Dahl, most famously known as the author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, was a spy during World War II for England, which planted agents in the U.S for the purpose of finding out information and influencing the nation England badly needed help fighting Hitler and America was dragging its feet about joining the war effort Jennet Conant s book follows Dahl from his time as an RAF fighter pilot into his spy role and then very briefly through his post war years as a successful author Though his actions and importance should not be underrated, he was not a professional intelligence agent, nor did he rise high in the pre MI6 organize that utilized him Therefore Conant devotes a good deal of the book to others the spy masters, politicians, socialites and others on the periphery of his elbow rubbing circle So with Dahl missing from so many pages, it feels slightly misleading to call this a book about the famous children s author One feels, at least in the midst of a chapter long diversion, he may have been used to a small degree to ratchet up interest, casting a wider net over another genre s audience than would have been snagged with only a spy enthusiast centered title Still and all, that doesn t detract from the overall enjoyment of the fascinating stories that fill The Irregulars from cover to cover.