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The Irregulars: Roald Dahl and the British Spy Ring in Wartime Washington | [Jennet Conant]

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

Prior to the U.S. entering WWII, a small coterie of British spies in Washington, D.C., was formed. They called themselves the Baker Street Irregulars after the band of street urchins who were the eyes and ears of Sherlock Holmes in some Arthur Conan Doyle stories.
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Publisher's Summary

Prior to the U.S. entering WWII, a small coterie of British spies in Washington, D.C., was formed. They called themselves the Baker Street Irregulars after the band of street urchins who were the eyes and ears of Sherlock Holmes in some Arthur Conan Doyle stories. This group constituted the very beginning of what would become M16, the British version of the CIA, and they helped support the fledgling American intelligence service, known at the time as the OSS.

Among them were writers Roald Dahl, Ian Fleming, and the flamboyant Canadian industrialist turned professional saboteur William Stephenson, known by the code name "Intrepid", upon whom Fleming would later base his fictional M16 agent James Bond. Richly detailed and carefully researched, Conant's narrative uses never-before-seen wartime letters, diaries and interviews to create a fascinating, lively account of deceit, double dealing and moral ambiguity - all in the name of victory.

©2008 Jennet Conant; (P)2008 HighBridge Company.

What the Critics Say

"A thoroughly engrossing story, one Conant tells exceptionally well." (Publishers Weekly)
"Reads like a classic spy novel....With this excellent history of personalities and politics during World War II, Conant adds successfully to her previous books that have made vivid the war's background players. Highly recommended." (Library Journal)
"Simon Prebble, fastidiously pukka in his accent, has a fine 'top-secret' voice, shaded with condescension and understatedly urgent. Coming from him, the expression 'rumor mill' sounds especially insidious, and the deeds he describes - 'eavesdropping and peering over people's shoulders,' forgery, political subversion and general backstabbing - seem wonderfully dastardly." (Washington Post Book World)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.6 (356 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Karen StavangerNorway 06-07-09
    Karen StavangerNorway 06-07-09 Member Since 2006
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Witty,entertaining, real spies"

    This piece definitely gave me the most intimate and realistic feel for WWII espionage. Far from the Hollywood version, but a believable and honest vision of Britain's desparate efforts for American support in their fight against Hitler.

    The narration is superb. One of the best I have heard since listening to "Portrait of a Lady". Simon Pebble is brilliant in conveying that wonderful caustic but satirical sense of humour that so British. A great listen.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Anne A. Kennedy austin, tx 03-05-09
    Anne A. Kennedy austin, tx 03-05-09 Member Since 2008

    aakennedy

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Fascinating, complicated"

    As the child of a former OSS officer and CIA officer, I found this glimpse into British covert operations in the war-time US fascinating. There are so many threads to this story that it can be easy to lose track of who's who, however. I really enjoyed the portrait of Texas newspaper magnate, Charles Marsh, an intensely interesting character who should have his own biography. He plays a larger role in Dahl's life than many of the other names you will see in reviews (ex: Ian Fleming,Claire Booth Luce, etc.). The "what happened next" section is somewhat truncated, as it should be. I suspect that for Dahl and the others involved in the BSC, it was difficult to create a second act for their lives.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sandra Humble, TX, United States 01-05-09
    Sandra Humble, TX, United States 01-05-09 Member Since 2008
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    7
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    "Unique Aspect of the War at Home"

    This is a concise telling of a rather unknown entity that operated in the US beginning in the early years of the war. Many little interesting tidbits of history. A little too much focus on Wallace, FDR's vice president and not enough on the daily workings of the unit. The author covers a lot of territory and you are left wanting more depth in some areas. Fun and easy listen and a new perspective on Britin, our "friend"

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Carolyn Glen Mills, PA, USA 12-17-08
    Carolyn Glen Mills, PA, USA 12-17-08 Member Since 2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Thoroughly Enjoyable!"

    This book was engrossing, educational and entertaining. I learned so much about the relations between Britain and the US during WWII, the inner workings of the White House, and the fascinating persona of Roald Dahl. He was an intriguing, mulit-dimensional person who lived a storybook life as he was writing his own fiction. The references to Ian Flemming and LBJ were interesting as well.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    benefit NC 03-14-10
    benefit NC 03-14-10 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
    7
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    "Startling/RIveting"

    Couldn't stop listening to this fascinating true-life tale of espionage by the British in the United States--politics, Hollywood, James Bondian goings on--amazing. I learned so much from this book, but it was non-stop thrills all the way. Bought the print version as well and will read it a second time. Reader, by the way, was perfect for the content.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kindle Customer ALBUQUERQUE, NM, United States 01-12-10
    Kindle Customer ALBUQUERQUE, NM, United States 01-12-10 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "The Irregulars"

    I usually prefer fiction but this fascinating history was so excellent that I couldn't stop listening. The story uses the life of Roald Dahl as a focus to explore British Intelligence in the U.S. leading up to the American entry in World War II. This well researched and well written story brings the period (30's, 40's and 50's)to life. I found this story informative, enjoyable and thought provoking. The reader added to my enjoyment, I'm glad I listened rather than reading.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Barnabas' Daughter Atlanta, GA, USA 12-17-09
    Barnabas' Daughter Atlanta, GA, USA 12-17-09 Member Since 2009

    The name is for my wife, the photo is for the old man.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Fascinating stuff"

    This is a remarkable book. The reading is "transparent", I didn't notice anything wrong at all. The book is fascinating, If you know WWII era history fairly well, you'll find all sort of people you perhaps didn't expect, for example Lyndon Johnson and Ian Flemming. I didn't even know how well I knew the works of Roald Dahl, in particular. I've listened to it a couple of times, and enjoyed it on the second listening.

    My main complaint is that not enough of the darker "undercover" aspect of the history is revealed. Perhaps later more information will be revealed.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Experienced Recruiter 10-26-08 Member Since 2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Pretty good"

    Very interesting story especially how these individuals became who they are where. Lagged for a bit but is recommended.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Linda Harrisburg, PA, United States 06-16-09
    Linda Harrisburg, PA, United States 06-16-09 Member Since 2006
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    "interesting"

    I learned a lot about about activities connected with WWII -- British spys in the Americas, Vice President Wallace, and Washington DC society. I had no idea that children's book writer Dahl had been a British spy in the US! It was definitely worth reading. But, the book was not linear and would jump back and forth. I prefer my non-fiction to be chronological.

    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Robert Houston, TX, United States 10-31-13
    Robert Houston, TX, United States 10-31-13 Member Since 2012
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    "Interesting anecdotes, not enough story"

    There's very little narrative about the British spy ring and their actual spying activities and lots of gossipy anecdotes about wartime Washington. It doesn't really deliver on the premise.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
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