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By 1938 the movie industry in Los Angles was so dominated by British talent that the collective group came to be known as the Hollywood Raj (a nod to Great Britain's colonization of India). With Beverly Hills and the environs populated by the likes of Ronald Colman, Herbert Marshall, C. Aubrey Smith, Cedric Hardwicke, and a younger generation represented by Cary Grant, Errol Flynn and David Niven, Sir Osmond Radford found himself adrift. The 50-year-old theatrical knight and former Great War flying ace had once been a successful matinee idol both in London and on Broadway. But his film career had never taken off, and his sole employment, albeit lucrative, was hosting a weekly radio show called "My Favorite Story". He yearns to play Sherlock Holmes - a role he toured in for years on stage - in the forthcoming Twentieth Century Fox production. He feels it will be the role of a lifetime.
Little does Radford realize that "the role of a lifetime" is about to be presented to him by the British Secret Service. His former comrade-in-arms, Richard Ives-Curtis, recruits/blackmails him into service for "the Greater Good" to become Britain's eyes and ears in the film colony. With America pledged to remaining neutral in the impending European conflict, Los Angeles is becoming a hotbed for Nazi sympathizers and spies for Germany, Japan and Italy. Ives-Curtis orders Radford to ferret out abnd make regular reports on any suspect espionage activities.
Radford's new career as a spy is complicated by his colorful domestic life. His wife, Hyacinth, is a successful interior decorator whose clientele include moguls and movie stars. His oldest daughter, Flavia, is a flamboyant bi-sexual, who campaigns day and night for the role of Scarlett O'Hara in "Gone with the Wind". His middle child, Alec, is an avowed Nazi sympathizer, who embarks on an affair with "Hitler's honey", Leni Riefenstahl. His youngest daughter, Julia, has become pregnant by a married man, whom she appeared with in a Broadway flop. His brother, Jasper, is a total bounder, who becomes a drug dealer and incurs the wrath of mobsters Bugsy Siegel and Mickey Cohen.
In addition to these real-life gangsters, the novel features appearances by other luminaries like Marlene Dietrich, Leslie Howard, David Niven, Errol Flynn, Samuel Goldwyn, and Orson Welles.