out of 5
Review by Libby
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.
out of 5
Review by Joseph
Amazon.com 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, 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
From Publishers Weekly This carefully researched chronicle of Dahl's WWII espionage ought to be more interesting than it isâ€”the word spy ring suggests thrilling acts of derring-do, yet they never come. While occasionally intriguing, this is too frequently a dry collection of old gossip with too many tangents discussing minor characters, their real estate and their clothing. Simon Prebble reads creditably and distinctively, and his English accent is perfect for the subject. But even he cant hold ones attention in this excessively digressive, slowly paced academic work. Its a pity, because this is a comprehensive look at a topic that most people probably know little about: England's efforts to counter American isolationism. A Simon & Schuster hardcover (Reviews, June 9). (Sept.)
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