Agent Zigzag: A True Story of Nazi Espionage, Love, and Betrayal
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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.

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 ten 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.

From the Hardcover edition.

Customer Reviews:

  • An Unsympathetic Spy
    "Agent Zig Zag" is a far better book than "Zig Zag," the other book about Eddie Chapman, the extraordinary WWII double agent with loyalties to the Brits. However, for all the hype about these two books, neither is a "thriller," per se, and both tell what is mostly an interesting (sometimes fascinating) "period piece" story about the unlikely thief-criminal-womanizer-sociopath who became a famous -- if barely trusted -- spy for Britain. "Agent Zig Zag" is more of a psychological accounting of Chapman than anything, and yet the story does give a very well crafted "insider" view of WWII, a perspective that few other novels or books about WWII espionage ever have done -- and I've read most of them! One is left with a (though possibly quite biased) clear insight into the workings of the Abwehr and also its counter part, the British Intelligence Service. How anything ever got done by either is a small miracle. Eddie Chapman, the spy in question, is thoroughly unlikeable and wholly unsympathetic. One can admire his heroics, his risk-taking, and his sheer "bon vivant" style of being a spy and of living his life in general. He was smart, that I can give him. My criticism of the other book ("Zig Zag") is tempered by this book. "Zig Zag's" author fawns over Eddie Chapman and makes you feel guilty if you don't agree with the author's over-wrought sense of how the Brits never honored Chapman's achievements -- in other words, those "ungrateful Brits." Here, in "Agent Zig Zag" with this author, you are free to decide that for yourself. Both books, however, are flawed from this standpoint: NEITHER book spells out in clear form EXACTLY what it is that Eddie Chapman actually DID -- over the course of his engagement by both the Germans and the Brits other than the fact that he did NOT GET CAUGHT by the Germans -- to really and truly help or assist in the outcome of the war!! The people who deserve credit for whatever it is Chapman accomplished are his team of British handlers (and to a lesser extent his German handlers), those very smart men who designed his activities, who created the deceptions and who protected him from his own self-destructive ways. Most of the time, as I understood the story, whether Eddie was in Madrid, Paris, Oslo, Berlin, Lisbon or London, he lived a high and rather easy life of booze, women, and debauchery. Very little of his character is admirable and almost none of his behavior stands the test of devotion to duty or to people. He really was a jerk. He betrayed nearly everyone he ever met. He made false promises to at least 3 women who loved him, whereupon he abandoned them for other women. He remained married to one of them, Betty Farmer, throughout his life, but that marriage lasted only because Farmer did not abandon him! Today, he would be diagnosed as a psychopath or sociopath, an angry and unpredictable abuser, and alcoholic, a man with little conscience and one who rarely learned from experience -- someone who relied on his charm and false social skills to get what he wanted -- usually money, women, booze and high risk adventures -- for the thrill of it. So, what you get with this book is clear insight into the espionage scene in WWII and an in-depth psychological profile of a thoroughly despicable man, who may have helped the allied cause as a result of his recruitment to play off both sides against each other for his own fanatical need for adventure. But the question remains in my mind: just what indeed did he do -- for either side? The answer is not found in this book, no matter how well-written it is. I truly liked the book....more info
  • For the Enthusiast Who Can Enjoy the Work in Context

    I had been picking over McIntyre's book every once in a while in the book store since the hardcover release, but was never sold. When I received the paperback from an uncle who gives three paperbacks each year for Christmas, I took it as a sign and decided to give it a read after all. My instinct on this one was sound.

    McIntyre has found a compellingly pitchable storyline: British convict offers himself as a spy when the Germans take over the island prison where is incarcerated, is trained up in secret, parachutes into England and promptly presents himself to British intel as a doube agent, is accepted and inserted back into France only to seemingly fall back into the arms of the Germans.

    But, in spite of this preposterously delicious true life story, McIntyre is never really able to build a solidly entertaining narrative. For much of the book, the story plods as McIntyre delves into the minutiae of Chapman's training, associations and other aspects of his life; many of which are not all the interesting standing alone, but never seem to become relevant to the story in any meaningful way other than as curious asides. So, while being something of an innovator in safe-cracking thanks to his gang's use of developing explosives technology is relevant to the training and purpose the Nazis ultimately plan to put Chapman (blowing up an English facility that is manufacturing a key piece of military aviation technologysomewhat leading edge explosives-Chapman may have), McIntyre twice mentions that Chapman "may have" or "hinted at" a dalliance into homosexual prostitution, a fact that seems neither to be relevant to Chapman's espionage story nor really fill in the character who is already well-established as promiscuous.

    Additionally, this may demonstrate a commercial bias that WWII hidtory purists will disdain, but there is little of the glamour or even ingenuity and intrigue of WWII continental espionage that one might expect from the story. In fact, with Chapman flip-flopping sides, looking out for his own interest, and both the British and German intelligence infrastructures seemingly clueless to the charade, the whole affair takes on a kind of Keystone Cops feel that is both unexpected and kind of disappointing.

    I would recommend AGENT ZIGZAG for the WWII or espionage enthusiast who in interested in every angle on the topic and would - I'm quite sure - find more enjoyment in the contextual quality and relevance of McIntyre's work than I did as someone who doesn't spend a lot of time in either genre....more info
  • A Great Holiday Read
    This book kept me throughly engaged on a recent trip to Europe. Well written, with a sharp focus on character throughout, this is clearly the winner of the two books currently available. I was fascinated at how Chapman walked such a thin line while in contact with both UK and German
    agents, and how his charm masked a very dark personality. I felt at the end he was treated miserably by the UK, just cast aside and not rewarded financially in the way he should have been. Brave he certainly was, and possessed with a criminal mind at heart. But there was always the fact that you rather liked him and admired the way he had his own standards. Agent Zigzag will keep you glued to the page. ...more info
  • Hip, Funny, Fascinating
    Great story would make a terrific film. Jaw-dropping exploits combined with a cluelessness that's very engaging. A great read. I see Clive Owen as Agent ZigZag, 'cause he's a ladies' man, a funny guy (who thinks he's suave) and hysterical as a spy....more info
  • Ain't It the Truth!
    Novelists and scriptwriters would do well to study this book. Macintyre weaves a tale from archives and actual accounts, which few spy thrillers have equalled. Eddie Chapman is painted as a unique and complicated character. His British and German handlers come to life as the brilliant and flawed individuals they must have been. Should make a helluva movie!...more info
  • Fascinating and true spy story that reads like a thriller
    This highly entertaining and utterly gripping book is the true story of Eddie Chapman, a British petty criminal who ended up serving as an spy for both England and Germany during World War 2, and who was hailed as a hero by both sides. "Agent Zigzag" is the name that he was given by the British authorities who were aware of his status as a double agent and used him to feed misinformation to the Germans.

    Chapman's story is so full of adventure and ripe with coincidence that would be unbelievable if it were a novel. The story of how he comes to be an agent for the Germans is in itself worthy of a movie, taking us from a bank robbery in Scotland to prison - and eventual freedom - on the island of Jersey and then incarceration in the worst of Parisian prisons.

    Chapman emerges as a kind of James Bond character: a handsome and charming rogue with a penchant for adventure, for gambling, fine food and fast women. He is a fascinating mass of contradictions: utterly loyal to his friends even as he betrays them, a hopeless criminal who develops into a resourceful spy. But even the minor characters leap off the pages in this tale. The photographs are also well chosen and add to the story.

    Ben MacIntyre has amassed a vast amount of detail about not only Chapman, but his associates in both the German and English secret services. There is lots of interesting information about how those secret services functioned and what they achieved during the war. I was particularly riveted by the details about his training in spy techniques by the Nazis. However the book never gets bogged down in historical facts. Like the best biographies, it reads almost like fiction. I highly recommend this book....more info
  • A roaring good story
    Agent Zigzag has no deep meaning beyond the reflection that (as the Book of Proverbs says) the intentions of a man are "like deep water." But it is a roaring good story told by a master of the literary craft. Agent Zigzag takes its place with World War II classics such as Ewen Montagu, The Man Who Never Was (1953) and David Howarth, We Die Alone (1955)....more info
  • Just shows once again how truth can be even more interesting than most fiction.
    This is purported to be based on actual facts. Whether or not it's all true it is certainly one of the best spy stories I've read in ages. This would make a great film. The plots and twisys are as good as those imagined by Ambler and Lecarre. ...more info
  • ZigZag: Burglar, Spy, Lover, Hero
    Agent Zigzag: A True Story of Nazi Espionage, Love, and Betrayal, Ben McIntyre, Harmony Books, 365pp, 23 b/w photographs, appendices, notes, index, bibliography, $25.95 hardcover, $14.95 softcover, 2007.

    Published in Britain as Agent Zigzag: The True Wartime Story of Eddie Chapman, Lover, Betrayer, Hero, Spy, Ben McIntyre's story of a nearly-always-successful safe cracking burglar conning the Nazi's to sending him to England, returning to the Nazis and then the Nazi's returning him to England is remarkable on several levels. McIntyre captures the personalities of Chapman, his accomplices, his Nazi handlers, his British handlers and his lovers. There are neither stereotypes of Nazi or English bureaucrats nor females who fall in love with Chapman in the story. What could be a convoluted story of treason and double cross is well ordered and well explained.

    Captured by the English police on the Island of Jersey, Eddie Chapman is in jail when the Nazi's capture the island. Offering himself as a recruit, Chapman leaves a friend in the jail as a hostage. Receiving training in wireless communication, explosives and weapons, Chapman at times teaches his instructors a few clever tricks of the trade. By 1941, he parachuted into England with a wireless radio, a pistol, a suicide pill, and cash with an assignment to blow up a aircraft factory. Within twenty four hours he as found the police and turns himself in with the offer to work for the British against the Nazis.

    Chapman and a British officer communicate regularly with the Nazis. The destruction of the airplane factory occurs with the help of a magician and his crew. By way of Portugal, Chapman returns to occupied France with information cooked especially for the Nazis. While receiving training in Norway and having enough money to by a yacht,
    Chapman falls in love for third time, and takes pictures of suitable targets for Britain. He returns to Britain again with a wireless radio and cash; this time the mission is to discover the gadget that the British have invented which allows them to sink Nazi subs that are hiding in deep waters. Chapman is supplied more cooked intelligence for the Nazis and even outwits them into revealing what they know about British wireless communication.

    Amazingly, Chapman surived the war, finds the girl he left on Jersey, and supports his first wife and daughter; he eludes the Norway girl who was the only person in Europe to whom he revealed his double cross. Living the life of a Nazi collaborator, she was actually a member of the Norwegian resistance movement. With money in the bank he returns to burglary, this time aboard and not in England.

    McIntyre's story reveals the workings of the Abwehr and MI5, the difficulty of hiding from the Germans the truth of Ultra device, the devastation of London's suburbs by the V-1 and V-2 rockets. These rockets missed their targets in central London in part because of Chapman's misinformation about the rockets that fell short and fell long....more info
  • compelling story fast read
    My dad handed me this book the other night saying "I think you will enjoy this book, I did." He was so right. I could not put it down. Not only a great story but also a wonderful window into WW2 history. Read it!...more info