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

3.28 of 5 stars 3.28  ·  rating details  ·  1,372 ratings  ·  313 reviews
When Roald Dahl, a dashing young wounded RAF pilot, took up his post at the British Embassy in Washington in 1942, his assignment was to use his good looks, wit, and considerable charm to gain access to the most powerful figures in American political life. A patriot eager to do his part to save his country from a Nazi invasion, he invaded the upper reaches of the U.S. gove ...more
ebook, 416 pages
Published September 9th 2008 by Simon & Schuster (first published 2008)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Jason Koivu
It's rather shocking to discover one of your favorite children's authors was a spy...against 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 a
Apr 24, 2009 Stephanie rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Historians
How can a book be so very, very interesting and yet, at the same time, so eye-wateringly dull? Such is the sad state of The Irregulars: Roald Dahl and the British Spy Ring in Wartime Washington by Jennet Conant. There’s a lot of remarkable information in this book, but it often gets lost in details that may be of interest to a hardcore historian, but less so for the rest of us. So many times, I wanted to put this book down, never to return, only to come across a passage so fascinatingly brillian ...more
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 rea
Jul 30, 2009 Mahlon rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Roald Dahl fans only
Recommended to Mahlon by: Amazon
Shelves: read-2009
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 He ...more
Conant, Jennet. THE IRREGULARS: Roald Dahl and the British Spy Ring in Wartime Washington. (2008). ****. The British were fearful that the U.S. would not enter into the fray of WW II in time to relieve their hard-hit country. There was a strong spirit of isolationism and a significant amount of pro-German feeling in this country, including Charles Lindbergh’s “America First” organization, which claimed over one-million members. Britain needed help on an immediate basis. To this end, they devised ...more
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 ...more
Who knew the author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was a decorated RAF pilot and went on to become a British spy when injuries sustained under fire ended his flying career? Jennet Conant provides a well documented history of Britain's undercover effort to influence US leaders and the American public to come to Britain's aid in its fight against Nazi Germany. While Conant makes Roald Dahl the focus for The Irregulars, there are plenty of fascinating characters to go around - Ian Fleming, Wa ...more
I thought this might be interesting. It wasn’t. I thought it’d reveal some incite into how Dahl created his books, some strange link between espionage and the themes in his books. Rather, the book was much more a straight biography of this time in Dahl’s life and this period in history and Dahl’s involvement with it.

As a biography, the book was pretty boring. Dahl’s life during this period actually sounded interesting but there weren't enough of the juicy bits revealed. Instead, the focus was o
Brian DiMattia
The Irregulars is the latest book telling the story of the BSC or "British Security Coordination," a branch of MI6 that operated in the United States during World War 2. It's mandate was to develop strong relations with the American press and encourage their support of England and the Allies during the war, but it also specialized in identifying "isolationists" and those with pro-German sympathies, that they might be publicly humiliated or discredited.

Conant goes to great length describing the m
It took a long time to get through this one. Thankfully it was a "no fine, return when done" book from the library.

The beginning of this book was really interesting. I didn't know anything about Roald Dahl really, so it was all new. And espionage--especially nonfiction--can be a really interesting subject. The parts of the book the centered on Dahl (let's face it, that's what we're reading for and that's why his name is first and big on the cover) were the most interesting. The workings of the
I was unfamiliar with the life of the author of Charlie and Chocolate Factory etc before picking up this volume. It moves fairly swiftly through his war time service and focuses the vast majority of the book on his time in Washington with a couple chapters to after the war and the later endeavors he bent his life too. The focus is on the few war years in Washington D.C.

Apparently the British had a very active spy force in the United States and their goal at first was to get the U.S. to aid and
This was a really hard book to get through. Some chapters were interesting and others were not. While the book, based on its title, appears to be about the children's author Roald Dahl and his involvement with a secret British organization, it is actually not. The first 100 pages or so focus a little bit on Dahl but for the most part, the author just spends unnecessary time introducing you (in great detail) to person after person after person after person. I was starting to lose interest and cou ...more
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 more 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
You have to love a book in which the dashing young RAF lieutenant complains in writing that he is "all fucked out" from cozying up to beautiful heiresses and the discreetly errant wives of powerful men. That the officer in question is also the author of _James and the Giant Peach_ and _Charlie and the Chocolate Factory_ adds an extra layer of frisson.

For those who have already read up on Intrepid, Donovan, the BSC, the OSS, and the complex relationship between Churchill and FDR, there will be li
This is fairly in-depth coverage with tons of characters and even more details. Couple that with the fact that it jumps around a bit in time, and it isn't the easiest read, especially for someone like me who isn't typically interested in the whole spy thriller thing. So, I read this pretty quickly and didn't worry too much about the details - I had more fun that way. I enjoyed learning a bit about Roald Dahl, especially his how he became a writer, and I was also both fascinated and disgusted wit ...more
Marta Boksenbaum
I'm giving up! I just cannot finish this book. Although I find the topic interesting, I am not interested in a series of anecdotes about scores of people who worked for the American and British governments during World War II. I was interested in the story of Roald Dahl and other British Spies, however the book covers way more ground than that. Although this is non-fiction, I still look for characters to follow and relate to. This book made it impossible for me to keep track of anyone at all, be ...more
Todd Stockslager
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: ...more
Sounds like an intriguing subject (in every sense) but the book is so poorly written than I found myself floundering and rereading sentences. There are actual typographical errors! And elementary grammatical mistakes. Plus the story is a dull one. The tone is all over the place: most of the time she writes in a literary history style, then suddenly she says that x was 'a real nutjob' (NOT a quote).

I gave up when she had Dahl 'FLAUNTING authority.'

I mean REALLY, Simon and Schuster!
This book focuses on Roald Dahl as a young man. He arrived in the U.S. as a special attache and was soon recruited as an ad hoc member of the BCS. He spent much of his time with some of the key political and society players during WWII, and reported back to his handlers the political and military gossip and plans he managed to either overhear or charm out of people. He was definitely quite the ladies man, and used his charm to benefit both England and himself. He also had an extremely caustic si ...more
Diane Rhodes
The topic was interesting - how the British infiltrated the US during WWII to gather information and spread propaganda to draw the US into the war. The focus was on Roald Dahl, author of Matilda, James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and more. He was quite an interesting fellow, and he sure ran with an interesting crowd. Nevertheless, I found it a slow read with so many names to try to remember. A mention of a name early in the book would then be repeated 100+ pages later ...more
Another audio book I found pretty randomly and decided upon quickly at the library, this was a really entertaining tale of Roald Dahl, Noel Coward, Ian Fleming and other Brits who did everything they could to assist the effort in bringing the US into WWII against the Germans. From propaganda, to infiltrating elite social circles, to intercepting and copying documents, to applying pressure to vocal isolationists, it was all extremely fascinating. Plus, it was all done with the panache you might e ...more
I thought this book was very interesting. Long before he wrote Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or the screenplay for Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Roald Dahl was a spy and a man about town in WWII Washington DC.
Fraser Sherman
More like 2.5 stars. This is the story of the British Security Coordination, a WW II Washington DC British spy ring dedicated to learning about US government police that could affect England and employing propaganda or other tactics to win hearts and minds. The focus is Roald Dahl, injured RAF pilot starting his career as an author and quite happy to plunge into Washington's social whirl (and a fair number of beds) to pick up information for his bosses. Interesting, but the nature of the job mak ...more
Victoria Waddle
Most of us know Roald Dahl through his weirdly fun children’s stories. Even if you haven’t read those stories, you’ve probably seen some of the movies made from Dahl’s work—James and the Giant Peach, Matilda, The Witches, Willy Wonka (from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory). But Dahl’s entire life was wildly interesting, and his stint as a British spy in the United States during World War II is as engaging a story as anything he wrote for children.

The British Security Coordination had a secret m
I'd been looking forward to this read for awhile, as I am a fan of Dahl's books for children, and a lover of spy tales (especially real ones!), but this retelling of Dahl's time in Washington left me underwhelmed. The work that Dahl and others were doing (spreading propaganda to make Americans look favorably on the war) was interesting, but reading about the execution of this undercover work was a bit dull. The book read like a litany of who's who, and (this may just be my ignorance), I didn't k ...more
Interesting and full of detail on the British propaganda campaign determined to persuade the U.S. into entering WWII, but not the most exciting. The book gave me new insight on the politics of the era through Roald Dahl's interactions with FDR and the first lady, the Vice President, and various high level cabinet officials and their British counterparts. At times the jumps from person to person were difficult to follow.

I was personally interested in the discussion of the 'extracurricular activi
Joseph Harris Review

Amazon Best of the Month, September 2008: Long before Willy Wonka sent out those five Golden Tickets, Roald Dahl lived a life that was more James Bond than James 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 Irregulars is a brilliant profile of Dahl's lesser-known profession, e


It is part of the history of WWII, the first war I knew anything about.
Members of my family served in the war. A cousin was killed in the Pacific. When I was five, two of my uncles came home from the war and came to our house on their way home since we were closest to the place where they got off the bus. Uncle Jack had been on the battleship Texas.
He brought seashells from the Pacific. Uncle Jay had been with the 36th division, landing in Africa and later on the beach at Salerno.
While still qui
Pretty good read, but could have been better. Reads at times like a gossip magazine. The author constantly harps on how attractive Dahl was, which is not totally irrelevant. After all, his superiors ordered him to seduce Claire Booth Luce for Britannia (and he did).

The most interesting thing about the book though is how at odds Britain and the U.S. were over the post-war world. People like Henry Wallace saw the writing on the wall for the British Empire and Dahl had to work to undermine him bec
Naomi Young
I purchased this book originally because I had read Operation Mincemeat Operation Mincemeat: How a Dead Man and a Bizarre Plan Fooled the Nazis and Assured an Allied Victory and Agent Zigzag,Agent Zigzag: A True Story of Nazi Espionage, Love, and Betrayal and hoped that this book might be similar. I was somewhat disappointed. The reader could be excused from coming away with this book with the impression that the most accurate part of James Bond stories is that undercover operatives have a great ...more
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The Irregulars by Jennet Conant 8 37 Feb 13, 2012 06:44AM  
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Jennet Conant is an American non-fiction author and journalist. She has written four best selling books about World War II, three of which have appeared on the New York Times Best Seller list.

Born in Seoul, South Korea and raised in Asia and America, she received a BA degree in Political Theory from Bryn Mawr College in 1982, and double-majored in Philosophy at Haverford College. She completed a
More about Jennet Conant...
109 East Palace: Robert Oppenheimer and the Secret City of Los Alamos Tuxedo Park: A Wall Street Tycoon and the Secret Palace of Science That Changed the Course of World War II A Covert Affair: Julia Child and Paul Child in the OSS

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