In 1941, after training as a German spy in occupied France, Chapman was parachuted into Britain with a revolver, a wireless, and a cyanide pill, with orders from the Abwehr to blow up an airplane factory. Instead, he contacted MI5, the British Secret Service. For the next four years, Chapman worked as a double agent, a lone British spy at the heart of the German Secret Service who at one time volunteered to assassinate Hitler for his countrymen.
Crisscrossing Europe under different names, all the while 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.
The Nazis feted Chapman as a hero and awarded him the Iron Cross. In Britain, he was pardoned for his crimes, becoming the only wartime agent to be thus rewarded. Both countries provided for the mother of his child and his mistress.
Sixty years after the end of the war, and 10 years after Chapman's death, MI5 has now declassified all of Chapman's files, releasing more than 1,800 pages of top secret material and allowing the full story of Agent Zigzag to be told for the first time.
A gripping story of loyalty, love, and treachery, Agent Zigzag offers a unique glimpse into the psychology of espionage, with its thin and shifting line between fidelity and betrayal.
©2007 Ben MacIntyre; (P)2007 Random House, Inc. Random House Audio, a division of Random House, Inc.
"[An] intriguing and balanced biography." (Publishers Weekly)
Agent Zigzag starts out life as a conman, thief and jailbird. The beginning of the book starts out with a bang, literally out the window of fancy resort running from the cops. Eddie Chapman is Zig Zag and he becomes a key British double agent.
Zig Zag is recruited by the Germans, who occupied the Channel Islands where he was jailed. Chapman is trained by the Nazis and deploys on his first mission into England where he promptly surrenders to the Brits, who put him to work deceiving the Nazis with false intelligence.
Chapman’s true story is similar to page-turning fiction: charming multiple women, close calls with the law and spying.
I could not keep up with the Double spying codes and directions given to Eddie. I would have screwed up in the first interview with the Nazis and sent to the camps. Eddie was gifted with his craftiness.
One last point, technology was so primitive in WWII compared to how information was shared today. Memorizing codes was so key to being successful.
Very informative story.
MacIntyre has been criticized for rehashing a story previously told by others (both here and in Operation Mincemeat) and while this is technically true I doubt anyone has written these most intriguing stories with as much style as MacIntyre. His writing flits from reportage to crime novel to historical document to romance in the space of a single page. The narrator, John Lee is superb, maintaining a good pace which enhances the tension of the story. Definitely worth buying, but you'll struggle to turn it off - make sure you have lots of vacation time.
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