Excerpt from The Irregulars by Jennet Conant, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Irregulars

Roald Dahl and the British Spy Ring in Wartime Washington

by Jennet Conant

The Irregulars
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Sep 2008, 416 pages
    Paperback:
    Sep 2009, 416 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Donna Chavez

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt


Marsh, who was actually born in Cincinnati, Ohio, had risen from the ranks as a lowly reporter to become managing editor of the Cincinnati Post before forming a partnership with E. S. Fentress, a business manager in the E. W. Scripps chain, on a buying spree that ended up with them owning nineteen daily newspapers in Texas, including the Austin American and the Statesman. By 1930 Marsh had merged with Eugene Pulliam, the owner of nine dailies in Oklahoma and Indiana, to form General Newspapers, Inc., which they grew into an enormous publishing empire. As the principal of several holding companies, and owner of newspaper chains that extended from Texas through the South to New England, Marsh was an active voice in American politics and an influential behind-the-scenes figure in Washington, but unlike most of the players Dahl had encountered in the nation's capital, he eschewed publicity, preferring to manipulate people and events from the privacy of his R Street study.

In 1940 he had sold all his jointly held newspapers -- except for three dailies in Waco, Austin, and Port Arthur -- and focused his drive and energy on fighting the Axis powers. As bombs rained down on London that winter, Marsh, working together with his friends Walter Lippmann, Senator Claude Pepper, and Ben Cohen, a member of Roosevelt's "brain trust," helped draft a plan that outlined a novel way to send military aid to Britain. At the time, Roosevelt had just won reelection, burying his Republican challenger, Wendell Willkie, by a five-million-vote margin. Churchill had come to him hat in hand, with another desperate plea for military aid, asking for ships, bombers, and munitions. The difficulty was that Britain was low on dollars, and Churchill wanted to write an IOU for the armaments -- even though the Neutrality Acts demanded cash payment. In a press conference, Roosevelt responded by emphasizing Britain's plight and drawing a homely parable about a man lending his neighbor his garden hose to put out a fire. With FDR's "garden hose" endorsement, Pepper was able to get the new legislation through the Foreign Relations Committee, and after months of bitter debate it was finally passed as the Lend-Lease Act on March 11, 1941. That December Roosevelt, in one of his nationally broadcast fireside chats, declared that the United States had to become the "great arsenal of democracy," taking the country another step down the road from neutrality toward active involvement in the conflict. To the British, Lend-Lease had made all the difference, allowing them to withstand the Nazi onslaught, and they would not forget the crucial role Marsh had played in the early days of the war.

Marsh, then in his mid-fifties, was a large man in both stature and ideas and that rare individual who stood almost eye to eye with Dahl. He had a huge head and gleaming bald pate and was classically ugly in a way that was compelling. He was the sort of person of whom legends were made, and his personal life was correspondingly baroque. Marsh had fathered five children, three of whom were in their twenties, by a wife he had left behind in Texas, as well as two infants by his very young, very beautiful bride, Alice Glass. Then there was Alice's decidedly plain sister, Mary Louise, who lived with them and served as his personal secretary and ran the establishment with intimidating efficiency. Also part of this menagerie was Claudia Haines, Marsh's pretty, dark-haired typist, who had been hired by Alice because the divorced mother of two had needed a job, and Alice had taken pity on her. Dahl, no stranger to the rivalries that can develop in a household of women, made a quick study of the unusual arrangement and came to his own conclusions. The sexual tension in the air was thick enough to cut with a knife, and talk of affairs by both Charles and Alice was rampant among their friends. Ralph Ingersoll, in an unpublished memoir of Marsh, painted the indelible scene that greeted visitors to the R Street house: "Hawk-beaked Charles, the sultan in his castle, off-handedly gracious with his mini-harem in attendance."

Copyright © 2008 by Jennet Conant

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Invisible Life of Ivan Isaenko
    The Invisible Life of Ivan Isaenko
    by Scott Stambach
    BookBrowse First Impression reviewers were uniformly impressed by this difficult yet heartwarming ...
  • Book Jacket: Boy Erased
    Boy Erased
    by Garrard Conley
    Growing up in rural Arkansas, Garrard Conley did not quite fit the mold of his strait-laced, ...
  • Book Jacket: The Bones of Grace
    The Bones of Grace
    by Tahmima Anam
    The Bones of Grace completes Tahmima Anam's Bangladesh trilogy. The three novels, which can be ...

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    The Invisible Life of Ivan Isaenko
    by Scott Stambach

    "An auspicious, gut-wrenching, wonderful debut." - Kirkus, starred review

    Read Member Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    All the Ugly and Wonderful Things
    by Bryn Greenwood

    A memorable coming-of-age tale about loyalty, defiance, and the power of love.

    Read Member Reviews

Book Discussions
Book Jacket
This Must Be the Place
by Maggie O'Farrell

An irresistible love story for fans of Beautiful Ruins and Where'd You Go, Bernadette?

About the book
Join the discussion!
Win this book!
Win Lady Cop Makes Trouble

The Kopp Sisters Return!

One of the nation's first female deputy sheriffs returns in another gripping adventure based on fact.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

Manners M (T) M

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.

 
X

Free Weekly Newsletter

Keep up with what's happening in the world of books:
Reviews, previews, interviews and more!



Spam Free: Your email is never shared with anyone; opt out any time.