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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 (359 )
5 star
 (77)
4 star
 (120)
3 star
 (111)
2 star
 (34)
1 star
 (17)
Overall
3.7 (168 )
5 star
 (47)
4 star
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3 star
 (45)
2 star
 (16)
1 star
 (5)
Story
4.0 (167 )
5 star
 (58)
4 star
 (63)
3 star
 (35)
2 star
 (7)
1 star
 (4)
Performance
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  •  
    Dale Pittsburgh, PA, United States 02-28-11
    Dale Pittsburgh, PA, United States 02-28-11 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
    60
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    30
    27
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    7
    0
    Overall
    "Surprising"

    I downloaded this book on a whim. It was on sale and I've been listening to lots of WWII history and wanted something a bit different. In addition, I've read a lot of Dahl and own most of his children's books. The material is engrossing and the narrator is quite good. The only reason I didn't give it 5 stars is because there is a middle section of the book where the story necessarily goes away from Dahl only to come back to him later that is somewhat confusing in audiobook format. The names and dates can come fast and furious and be a little overwhelming at times. In the end, however, it was a fascinating story and is told well by both author and reader.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer Swannanoa, NC, United States 05-03-09
    Amazon Customer Swannanoa, NC, United States 05-03-09 Member Since 2006
    HELPFUL VOTES
    9
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    268
    8
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    "Interesting account"

    I wanted to be fascinated and looked forward to learning about an experience I'd never explored before. In some sections of the book I was captivated, but other sections dragged on and I found myself wishing the editor had been more heavy handed.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    connie Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada 10-13-09
    connie Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada 10-13-09

    trying to see the world with my ears

    HELPFUL VOTES
    3481
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    1467
    395
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    1501
    136
    Overall
    "Slow down Simon"

    --it's not so bad a book that Prebble had to rush through it - but my download (Enhanced format) was read at too brisk a pace. Since this is easy listening history, that pace detracted from the enjoyment of the listen.

    I suspect those who know much about the period will quibble over details, but for me this was an entertaining look at propagnada making and the types who find themselves spinning it - more relevant an industry today than ever. This was better listening than most spy stories and the only violence is verbal, committed against oponnents' spin.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    O.B. Shame 04-17-14
    O.B. Shame 04-17-14 Member Since 2011
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    14
    2
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Worth Your Time"
    Any additional comments?

    I was torn between giving the story 3 and 4, only because it dragged in places and went off in several tangents. In the end, I decided on 4 because for history buffs, the story is an important chapter in U.S.-British relations. There are times when you feel like Dahl is "the most interesting man in the world" as the commercial says, and there are other times when you believe he stumbled and charmed his way along for much of his life. He, not to mention the others, was certainly an interesting character. There is no doubt about that. The reader, Simon Prebble, is excellent. Good enough that, when Audible recommended "The Irregulars" after I finished "The Day of the Jackal," I gave it a try when I saw that Prebble read this one too. This is a worthwhile piece of history and I recommend it.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer OMAHA, NE, United States 12-22-13
    Amazon Customer OMAHA, NE, United States 12-22-13 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
    3
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    29
    2
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    0
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    Performance
    Story
    "lots of info but borning"
    Has The Irregulars turned you off from other books in this genre?

    maybe


    Did Simon Prebble do a good job differentiating all the characters? How?

    there were not any characters in this book. Or, more correctly, there were characters but they never spoke directly enough for us to know their voices it was all narrated what they did and said.


    Any additional comments?

    The book has a lot of info but it is written like a social calendar not like a book on the amazing, creative and daring activities of the "basker street irregulars." True most spy activities are probably not exciting, but unless you enjoy hours and hours of listening to what parties one man went to listed out then you will not enjoy this book. Also, this book focuses on one man and touched briefly on many of the others, but even after listening to the book for 8 hours the character was flat and dull. I was also often was confused about when the activities took place. I could not keep a time line. I would often think we were months or years a head of when the actual event being described took place which was most disconcerting. A very thorough review of the facts, but one that is hard to get into.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Bryden Mt nasura, Australia 09-03-13
    Bryden Mt nasura, Australia 09-03-13 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
    15
    ratings
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    119
    8
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    0
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    Story
    "Fascinating insight into wartime politics"

    Roald Dahl's intriguing career is reviewed in this excellent book. I was fascinated by how this 'childrens author' was connected to the political elite during the most tumultuous period of modern history and how famous many of his then colleagues became.
    Including 007 author Ian Fleming and ad-man David Ogilvy.

    Simon Prebble's voice and style are perfect match to this novel making it a joy to listen.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Cathy L. Cole North Platte, NE United States 08-21-13
    Cathy L. Cole North Platte, NE United States 08-21-13 Member Since 2002
    HELPFUL VOTES
    13
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    436
    7
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Not the book promised"
    Is there anything you would change about this book?

    Include information on some of the exciting adventures mentioned in blurb. Not reflected in the book.


    Would you ever listen to anything by Jennet Conant again?

    Probably not


    Which scene was your favorite?

    None really.


    Did The Irregulars inspire you to do anything?

    Try to find a better book on the subject.


    Any additional comments?

    Very disappointed. Was looking forward to hearing this book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Phyllis United States 12-23-12
    Phyllis United States 12-23-12 Member Since 2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
    29
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    310
    13
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Needed a players card to keep track..."
    Would you try another book from Jennet Conant and/or Simon Prebble?

    No


    What was your reaction to the ending? (No spoilers please!)

    Wrapped up Dahl's life rather quickly in the end.


    Did Simon Prebble do a good job differentiating all the characters? How?

    Yes, fairly good given the large number of characters with minimal parts.


    Did The Irregulars inspire you to do anything?

    I did have to google several people mentioned just to see what they looked like given the descriptions in the book.


    Any additional comments?

    I would have enjoyed the story more if there actually had been a story. I felt I was listening to a long list of people who showed up at places and hoped something would happen. I was rather disappointed that it read more like a thesis than popular press.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Christopher Weakley Washington, DC 09-13-12
    Christopher Weakley Washington, DC 09-13-12 Member Since 2012

    SojournerVA

    ratings
    REVIEWS
    42
    3
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "A Brit in Washington"
    What did you love best about The Irregulars?

    I loved the insight into Washington during the War. My parents having grown up in the city, I am constantly fascinated by the stories they tell about all the goings on and how Washington transformed from a sleepy Southern town to the city it is today.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The Irregulars?

    The discussions about the Wallace Vice Presidency was absolutely fascinating. I had not realized what a concern that he caused to the British government.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    I was moved most by the post war period. It seems that the people in the book were constantly chasing the life they had during the war.


    Any additional comments?

    I really enjoyed this. I found it very interesting and entertaining to hear about Dahl's life. The literary figure seems so divorced from real man.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Katherine Georgetown, Ontario, Canada 06-24-12
    Katherine Georgetown, Ontario, Canada 06-24-12 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
    105
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    127
    125
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    8
    6
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "A bit gossipy"
    Any additional comments?

    The book is a good view of life in Washington before the U.S. entered the war and what gadabouts, like Roald Dahl were up to on behalf of the British government, trying to gather info and influence the U.S. to enter the war. It is centered around Dahl, is almost his biography and the 'gossip' includes people such as FDR, Eleanor Roosevelt, Ernest Hemingway, Tyrone Power and Patricia Neal. I found it sometimes boring, but at other times engaging. Roald Dahl comes across as a very brave, charming, talented and perhaps not totally likable fellow.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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