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Agent Zigzag : a true story of Nazi…

Agent Zigzag : a true story of Nazi espionage, love, and betrayal (2007)

by Ben Macintyre

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Showing 1-5 of 52 (next | show all)
An interesting read about espionage in the Second World War, showing that it wasn't always about black and white heroes and villains. A fascinating insight into the methods of intelligence services on both sides. ( )
  DunkaFett82 | Apr 8, 2014 |
Loved this book. The picaresque subject had vast charisma and charmed almost everyone he met. The author's conclusion regarding the meeting with Churchill is almost certainly wrong, but in all other areas he's probably correct. Was Zigzag a scoundrel? Well, yes, but when it came down to what was most important, he, like Schindler, did the honorable thing. A wonderful tale, and a well written one. ( )
  jguenther | May 17, 2013 |
Wait…this really happened? You mean this isn’t a John le Carre spy novel? Really? Wow! I thought I was reading fiction. I’m stunned. And a little embarrassed that I didn’t know.

Eddie Chapman was sitting in a Jersey jail when the island was invaded by the Germans in 1940. A petty criminal and ladies’ man, he was always, above all, looking out for himself. So it came as no surprise when he decided to find a niche in the armor of his German jailers and proposed that he would make a good German spy. The fact that they took him up on it is as preposterous as the rest of this unbelievable, yet true, story of espionage during WWII. But wait, that’s not all. The fact is, after being trained for months in France, by the German intelligence group, Abwehr he parachutes down from a German plane into the English countryside and immediately turns himself in to the authorities and is picked up by MI5, the British intelligence group where he sings to the high heavens about all he’s done in France. They determine that he will make a suitable double agent. You see, this is the thing about Eddie Chapman: he is really quite unlikable, with not much of a moral compass. He does what is in his own best interests, leaving women in his wake in two countries, a charming con man and philanderer and yet….in the end he did the right thing and supported his own country. It’s just that he was such a loose canon and completely untrustworthy, so much so that neither side was ever sure of what he would do. The first time he came back to London, after his German training he found a changed city:

”Chapman last lived in London in 1939, and the city had changed almost beyond recognition, and the city had changed almost beyond recognition. The Blitz had stiffened British resolve, but it had left livid scars across the capital, inflicting some forty-three thousand deaths, destroying more than a million houses, and damaging such landmarks as the Houses of Parliament, and St. James Place. Chapman had left a swinging, prosperous London. The one he returned to was shabby and toughened, crouched in self-defense, festooned in barbed wire, inured to deprivation, and braced for the next assault. It would take Chapman weeks to adapt to this transformed world of coupons and rationing, blackouts and bomb shelters.” (Page 142)

The book is absolutely unputdownable. Well researched using recently released British secret documents, an engaging narrative non-fiction, it reads like a spy thriller. It’s just that, well, it’s hard to believe that it all actually happened. But it did. It happened. Very highly recommended. ( )
9 vote brenzi | May 9, 2013 |
Agent Zigzag is the remarkable story of Second World War double agent Eddie Chapman. Along the way Eddie meets an extraordinary cast of characters. Here's a couple of examples:

Jasper Maskelyne who was Britain's official illusionist (and a master-illusionist at that) who came from a long line of magicians, alchemists and astronomers. In addition to his marvellous war work he also invented the coin operated toilet door.

Praetorius, one of Chapman's Abwehr (German Secret Service) minders. A fan of English folk dancing and who adored Morris dancing. As the war was concluding, Praetorius left the Abwehr, to take up a role as dance instructor to the Wehrmacht.

There are many, many more. You couldn't make some of this stuff up. It's incredible.

The most incredible thing of all is Eddie's tale: from criminal, to British prisoner, to Nazi prisoner (both in Jersey and Paris), to Nazi agent, and then to British double agent. Eddie's gift was his charm and his cunning. Almost universally liked, he seemed to win over even the most sceptical. This appears to be because he frequently developed real affection for the many people he met, including his Abwehr controllers. He also seemed to genuinely love the various women with whom he became entangled.

Ben Macintyre tells Chapman's story with skill, verve, and wit, and does his subject justice. Chapman emerges as a real life, working class James Bond-type character: handsome, charming, and drawn to danger, gambling, fine food, drink, and women. He is a seething mass of contradictions, with one essential attribute, he was the perfect double agent.

If you enjoy either good biographies, or larger-than-life characters, then you'll almost certainly enjoy this book. ( )
  nigeyb | Apr 23, 2013 |
I won't go so far as to say that this is "the best book ever written," as one reviewer on the back cover of the paperback claimed, but I did enjoy it more than any other book I've read about WWII. It's a cross between Ian Fleming and Hogan's Heroes, and it's based on declassified MI5 files. A great read, and especially satisfying if you stick with it from the beginning to the last paragraph. Terrific ending. ( )
1 vote madamepince | Mar 3, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 52 (next | show all)
Mr. Macintyre, a writer at large for The Times of London, paints a detailed picture, supported by newly opened MI5 files on espionage training in the Third Reich and Britain’s desperate scramble to throw the enemy off course through a campaign of disinformation.
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Zigzag. n, adj, and vb. '... a pattern made up of many small corners at an acute angle, tracing a path between two parallel lines; it can be described as both jagged and fairly regular'.
'It is essential to seek out enemy agents who have come to conduct espionage against you and to bribe them to serve you. Give them instructions and care for them. Thus double agents are recruited and used.'

Sun Tzu, The Art of War
'War makes thieves and peace hangs them.'

George Herbert
For Kate
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A German spy drops from a black Focke-Wulf reconnaissance plane over Cambridgeshire.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0307353419, Paperback)

“Ben Macintyre’s rollicking, spellbinding Agent Zigzag blends the spy-versus-
spy machinations of John le Carré with the high farce of Evelyn Waugh.”
—William Grimes, The New York Times

A New York Times Notable Book of the Year
A Washington Post Best Book of 2007
One of the Top 10 Best Books of 2007 (Entertainment Weekly)
New York Times Best of the Year Round-Up
New York Times Editors’ Choice

Eddie Chapman was a charming criminal, a con man, and a philanderer. He was also one of the most remarkable double agents Britain has ever produced. Inside the traitor was a man of loyalty; inside the villain was a hero. The problem for Chapman, his spymasters, and his lovers was to know where one persona ended and the other began. Based on recently declassified files, Agent Zigzag tells Chapman’s full story for the first time. It’s a gripping tale of loyalty, love, treachery, espionage, and the thin and shifting line between fidelity and betrayal.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:52:16 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Eddie Chapman was a charming criminal, a con man, and a philanderer. He was also one of the most remarkable double agents Britain has ever produced. In 1941, after training as a German spy in occupied France, Chapman was parachuted into Britain with orders to blow up an airplane factory. Instead, he contacted MI5, the British Secret Service. For the next four years, he worked as a double agent, a British spy at the heart of the German Secret Service. Crisscrossing Europe under different names, weaving plans, spreading disinformation, and miraculously keeping his stories straight under intense interrogation, he even managed to gain some profit and seduce beautiful women along the way. MI5 has now declassified all of Chapman's files, allowing the full story to be told, a unique glimpse into the psychology of espionage, with its thin and shifting line between fidelity and betrayal.--From publisher description.… (more)

» see all 3 descriptions

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