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

( 70 )

Overview

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR OF A SPY AMONG FRIENDS

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...

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Overview

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR OF A SPY AMONG FRIENDS

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.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
When you have John le Carré singing your praises, you must be doing something right. And Ben Macintyre has done it right indeed with a true spy story that is so gripping you'll have to keep reminding yourself isn't one of le Carré's great Smiley novels. Making use of newly declassified documents, Macintyre revisits the exploits of Eddie Chapman, a World War II rogue, criminal, and double agent for the Nazis and the British. It's a roller-coaster ride of adventure that's filled with romance, intrigue, and betrayal -- told by a author who captures it all with vivid imagery, deep psychological insight, and a verve that keeps the pages turning. A gem of a book.
From the Publisher
“Macintyre is the more graceful writer; Agent Zigzag has a clarity and shape that make it the more fluid account… I would give a personal nod to Macintyre’s as the better book… A review cannot possibly convey the sheer fun of this story… or the fascinating moral complexities.”
New York Times Book Review

“[Agent Zigzag’s] incredible wartime adventures, recounted in Ben Macintyre’s rollicking, spellbinding Agent Zigzag blend the spy-versus-spy machinations of John le Carré with the high farce of Evelyn Waugh.”
The New York Times

“Chapman’s story has been told in fragments in the past, but only when MI5 declassified his files was it possible to present it in all its richness and complexity. Macintyre tells it to perfection, with endless insights into the horror and absurdity of war….Eddie Chapman was a patriot, in his fashion, and this excellent book finally does him justice.”
The Washington Post Book World

"Fact sounds like fast-moving fiction in this espionage saga of a man who was probably the most improbable double agent to emerge in World War II. ... The author has written an enormously fascinating book about an enormously fascinating man. The late Eddie Chapman would have been delighted to at last capture the limelight denied him by the restrictions of his wartime profession. The question now is, who will make the movie and who will play the lead? Too bad Errol Flynn is dead."
Washington Times

“[R]ichly descriptive, marvelously illuminating, and just plain brilliant….One could not think of a better subject for Macintyre's curious mind than the man whom British intelligence dubbed Agent Zigzag in December 1942…. [A] plot - impossible and pointless to summarize - that is as briskly paced and suspenseful as any novel's. Macintyre's diligent research and access to once-secret files combine here with his gift of empathetic imagination and inspired re-creation. He writes with brio and a festive spirit and has quite simply created a masterpiece.”
The Boston Globe

"Superb. Meticulously researched, splendidly told, immensely entertaining and often very moving."
—John le Carré

“Macintyre [relates] his compellingly cinematic spy thriller with verve.”
Entertainment Weekly (an “EW Pick”)

Agent Zigzag is a true-history thriller, a real spy story superbly written. It belongs to my favorite genre: the ‘Friday night book’–start it then, because you will want to stay with it all weekend.”
—Alan Furst

“A portrait of a man who double-crossed not only the Nazis, but just about every other principle and person he encountered. In doing so, Eddie Chapman made all thriller writers’ jobs harder, because this spy tale trumps any fiction.”
—Men’s Journal

“One of the most extraordinary stories of the Second World War.”
—William Boyd, The Sunday Telegraph

“This is the most amazing book, full of fascinating and hair-raising true-life adventures…and beautifully told. For anyone interested in the Second World War, spying, romance, skullduggery or the hidden chambers of the human mind, it would be impossible to recommend it too highly.”
The Mail on Sunday

“Speaking as a former MI6 officer, take it from me: there are very few books which give you a genuine picture of what it feels like to be a spy. This is one…. an enthralling war story.”
The Daily Express

“Macintyre tells Chapman’s tale in a perfect pitch: with the Boys’ Own thrills of Rider Haggard, the verve of George MacDonald Fraser and Carl Hiassen’s mordant humor. . . . Hugely entertaining.”
The [London] Observer

“If Ben Macintyre had presented this story as a novel, it would have been denounced as far too unlikely: yet every word of it is true. Moreover he has that enviable gift, the inability to write a dull sentence. An enthralling book results from the opening up of once deadly secret files.”
The Spectator

“Splendidly vivid. . . . There are endless delightful twists to the tale.”
—Max Hastings, The [London] Sunday Times

“Ben Macintyre's rollicking, thriller-paced account…is a Boy's Own adventure par excellence and a gripping psychological case study of a man 'torn between patriotism and egotism.'”
Time Out

“Macintyre succeeds in bringing Chapman vividly to life. It is unlikely that a more engaging study of espionage and deception will be published this year.”
The Times

"A preternaturally talented liar and pretty good safecracker becomes a “spy prodigy” working concurrently for Britain’s MI5 and the Nazi’s Abwehr.

London Times newsman and popular historian Macintyre (The Man Who Would be King: The First American in Afghanistan, 2004, etc) reports on the life and crimes of the late Eddie Chapman using interviews, newly released secret files and, cautiously, the English spy’s less-reliable memoirs. Just launching his criminal career when World War II began, the dashing adventurer was jailed in the Channel Island Jersey. Volunteering his services to the occupying Fatherland, he was taken to France and schooled in the dark arts of espionage and the wicked devices of spies by the likes of convivial headmaster Herr von Gröning and spymaster Oberleutnant Praetorius. Then the new German agent signed a formal espionage contract (under which his expected rewards were to be subjected to income tax). Dropped in England’s green and pleasant land to commit sabotage, he instead reported directly to His Majesty’s secret service. There they called their man 'Agent ZigZag.' The Germans had named him “Fritzchen.” Little Fritz, with the help of a magician, fooled his Nazi handlers into believing he had wrecked an aircraft factory. After a crafty return to Germany, he made another parachute drop home to report on an anti-sub device and the accuracy of the new V-1 flying bomb. The energetic adventurer from a lower stratum of British society was being run by Oxbridge gentlemen and by aristocrats of Deutschland at the same time. Or perhaps he was running them. Adorning his exploits were several beautiful women and an Iron Cross. It is a remarkable cloak-and-dagger procedural and a fine tale of unusual wartime employment….

One of the great true spy stories of World War II, vividly rendered."
Kirkus

Patrick Anderson
Agent Zigzag is the amazing but true story of Eddie Chapman, a professional criminal who became a highly effective double agent during World War II, winning the trust of German intelligence services even as he reported back to the spymasters of MI5…Chapman's story has been told in fragments in the past, but only when MI5 declassified his files was it possible to present it in all its richness and complexity. Macintyre tells it to perfection, with endless insights into the horror and absurdity of war…Chapman is an endlessly fascinating figure, a man who would save your life one day and steal your watch the next. It's amusing, at this point, to see how the more aristocratic Brits couldn't quite believe that this degenerate, this criminal, could be a patriot. But Eddie Chapman was a patriot, in his fashion, and this excellent book finally does him justice.
—The Washington Post
William Grimes
Agent Zigzag, known to friends, lovers and the police as Eddie Chapman, was by any measure Britain's most unlikely intelligence asset. He was a longtime criminal turned double agent who, in the course of his career as a spy, would flit back and forth between Britain and Germany, occupied France and occupied Norway on one top-secret mission after another. His incredible wartime adventures, recounted in Ben Macintyre's rollicking, spellbinding Agent Zigzag, blend the spy-versus-spy machinations of John le Carre with the high farce of Evelyn Waugh.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

London Timesassociate editor Macintyre (The Man Who Would Be King) adroitly dissects the enigmatic World War II British double agent Eddie Chapman in this intriguing and balanced biography. Giving "little thought" to the morality of his decision, Chapman offered to work as a spy for the Germans in 1940 after his release from an English prison in the Channel Islands, then occupied by the Germans. After undergoing German military intelligence training, Chapman parachuted into England in December 1942 with instructions to sabotage a De Havilland aircraft factory, but he surrendered after landing safely. Doubled by MI5 (the security service responsible for counterespionage), Chapman was used "to feed vital disinformation to the enemy" and was one of the few double agents "to delude their German handlers until the end of the war." Meticulously researched-relying extensively on recently released wartime files of Britain's Secret Intelligence Service-Macintyre's biography often reads like a spy thriller. In the end, the author concludes that Chapman "repeatedly risked his life... [and] provided invaluable intelligence," but "it was never clear whether he was on the side of the angels or the devils." Of the two Zigzag biographies this fall (the other, by Nicholas Booth, is reviewed below), this is clearly superior. (Oct. 9)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal

Sixty years after his incredible career as a double agent for the British, Eddie Chapman (1914-97) is the subject of two new books charting his experiences as one of World War II's most amazing spies. A cad, bounder, womanizer, safe cracker, and general bad guy before the war, Chapman was in a jail on the Channel Island of Jersey awaiting trial when the Germans took over the island and decided that he might make a good spy for them. After training in Germany, he was parachuted back into England to blow up an airfield. Instead, he immediately turned himself into the authorities and cooperated with MI5 (the UK's security intelligence agency) as one of England's double agents. The Germans were fooled into thinking that Chapman had indeed destroyed the airfield and rewarded him upon his return to Germany with the Iron Cross. Sent back to England, Chapman spent the latter part of the war giving incorrect information to the Germans about the success of their V-1 and V-2 rockets. He wired inaccurate coordinates to the German rocket launch crews who then sent their rockets to places of minor importance, causing little damage.

Chapman wrote his own account in 1966, and a movie about his life titled Triple Crossappeared in 1967. Both Booth and Macintyre tap many of the same original sources, and both interviewed Chapman's widow for their respective accounts. Of the two accounts, Macintyre (associate editor, the London Times; The Man Who Would Be King: The First American in Afghanistan) displays a surer hand on the overall historiography of wartime spying and probably has an edge. But Booth, whose career has been in broadcasting and journalism, is a skilled writer who managesto weave Chapman's complex story into a readable volume that both entertains and informs. Chapman's wartime exploits would be unbelievable were they not verified by many sober debriefing accounts residing in numerous MI5 files available to any who want to look. Large public and academic libraries should purchase if budgets allow, but if they need to choose, they should pick Macintyre. Chapman's is a most unusual story that will intrigue most readers.
—Ed Goedeken

Kirkus Reviews
A preternaturally talented liar and pretty good safecracker becomes a "spy prodigy" working concurrently for Britain's MI5 and the Nazi's Abwehr. London Times newsman and popular historian Macintyre (The Man Who Would be King: The First American in Afghanistan, 2004, etc) reports on the life and crimes of the late Eddie Chapman using interviews, newly released secret files and, cautiously, the English spy's less-reliable memoirs. Just launching his criminal career when World War II began, the dashing adventurer was jailed in the Channel Island Jersey. Volunteering his services to the occupying Fatherland, he was taken to France and schooled in the dark arts of espionage and the wicked devices of spies by the likes of convivial headmaster Herr von Groning and spymaster Oberleutnant Praetorius. Then the new German agent signed a formal espionage contract (under which his expected rewards were to be subjected to income tax). Dropped in England's green and pleasant land to commit sabotage, he instead reported directly to His Majesty's secret service. There they called their man "Agent ZigZag." The Germans had named him "Fritzchen." Little Fritz, with the help of a magician, fooled his Nazi handlers into believing he had wrecked an aircraft factory. After a crafty return to Germany, he made another parachute drop home to report on an anti-sub device and the accuracy of the new V-1 flying bomb. The energetic adventurer from a lower stratum of British society was being run by Oxbridge gentlemen and by aristocrats of Deutschland at the same time. Or perhaps he was running them. Adorning his exploits were several beautiful women and an Iron Cross. It is a remarkable cloak-and-dagger procedural anda fine tale of unusual wartime employment. Based on the same material, another first-rate text (Nicholas Booth's ZigZag, 2007) with much the same Hitchcockian contortions qualifies as an exciting black-and-white spy thriller. Macintyre's version is in full color. One of the great true spy stories of World War II, vividly rendered.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307353412
  • Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 8/12/2008
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 111,893
  • Product dimensions: 5.18 (w) x 10.48 (h) x 0.87 (d)

Meet the Author

BEN MACINTYRE is a writer-at-large for The Times of London and the bestselling author of A Spy Among Friends, Double Cross, Operation Mincemeat, Agent Zigzag, The Napoleon of Crime, and Forgotten Fatherland, among other books. Macintyre has also written and presented BBC documentaries of the wartime espionage trilogy.

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Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER ONE

The Hotel de la Plage Spring came early to the island of Jersey in 1939. The sun that poured through the dining-room window of the Hotel de la Plage formed a dazzling halo around the man sitting opposite Betty Farmer with his back to the sea, laughing as he tucked into the six-shilling Sunday Roast Special “with all the trimmings.” Betty, eighteen, a farm girl newly escaped from the Shropshire countryside, knew this man was quite unlike any she had met before.

Beyond that, her knowledge of Eddie Chapman was somewhat limited. She knew that he was twenty-four years old, tall and handsome, with a thin mustache—just like Errol Flynn in The Charge of the Light Brigade—and deep hazel eyes. His voice was strong but high-pitched with a hint of a Northern accent. He was “bubbly,” full of laughter and mischief. She knew he must be rich because he was “in the film business” and drove a Bentley. He wore expensive suits, a gold ring, and a cashmere overcoat with mink collar. Today he wore a natty yellow spotted tie and a sleeveless pullover. They had met at a club in Kensington Church Street, and although at first she had declined his invitation to dance, she soon relented. Eddie had become her first lover, but then he vanished, saying he had urgent business in Scotland. “I shall go,” he told her. “But I shall always come back.”

Good as his word, Eddie had suddenly reappeared at the door of her lodgings, grinning and breathless. “How would you like to go to Jersey, then possibly to the south of France?” he asked. Betty had rushed off to pack.

It was a surprise to discover they would be traveling with company. In the front seat of the waiting Bentley sat two men: the driver a huge, ugly brute with a crumpled face; the other small, thin, and dark. The pair did not seem ideal companions for a romantic holiday. The driver gunned the engine and they set off at thrilling speed through the London streets, screeching into the Croydon airport, parking behind the hangar, just in time to catch the Jersey Airways plane.

That evening, they had checked into the seafront hotel. Eddie told the receptionist they were in Jersey to make a film. They had signed the register as Mr. and Mrs. Farmer of Torquay. After dinner, they moved on to West Park Pavilion, a nightclub on the pier, where they danced, played roulette, and drank some more. For Betty, it had been a day of unprecedented glamour and decadence.

War was coming, everyone said so, but the dining room of the Hotel de la Plage was a place of pure peace that sunny Sunday. Beyond the golden beach, the waves flickered among a scatter of tiny islands, as Eddie and Betty ate trifle off plates with smart blue crests. Eddie was halfway through telling another funny story when he froze. A group of men in overcoats and brown hats had entered the restaurant and one was now in urgent conversation with the headwaiter. Before Betty could speak, Eddie stood up, bent down to kiss her once, and then jumped through the window, which was closed. There was a storm of broken glass, tumbling crockery, screaming women, and shouting waiters. Betty Farmer caught a last glimpse of Eddie Chapman sprinting off down the beach with two overcoated men in pursuit.

• • •

There was much that Betty did not know about Eddie Chapman. He was married. Another woman was pregnant with his child. And he was a crook. Not some halfpenny bag snatcher, but a dedicated professional criminal, a “prince of the underworld,” in his own estimation.

For Chapman, breaking the law was a vocation. In later years, when some sort of motive for his choice of career seemed to be called for, he claimed that the early death of his mother, in the TB ward of a pauper’s hospital, had sent him “off the rails” and turned him against society. Sometimes he blamed the grinding poverty and unemployment in northern England during the Depression for forcing him into a life of crime. But in truth, crime came naturally to him.

Edward Chapman was born in Burnopfield, a tiny village in the Durham coalfields, on November 16, 1914, a few months into the First World War. His father, a marine engineer and too old to fight, had ended up running the Clippership, a dingy pub in Roker, and drinking a large portion of the stock. For Eddie, the eldest of three children, there was no money, not much love, little in the way of guidance, and only a cursory education. He soon developed a talent for misbehavior and a distaste for authority. Intelligent but lazy, insolent and easily bored, the young Chapman skipped school often, preferring to scour the beach for lemonade bottles, redeemable at  a penny a piece, and then while away afternoons at the cinema in Sunderland.

At the age of seventeen, after a brief and unsatisfactory stint as an unpaid apprentice at a Sunderland engineering firm, Chapman joined the army, although underage, and enlisted in the Second Battalion of the Coldstream Guards. Early in his training at Caterham, he slipped while playing handball and badly gashed his knee; the resulting scar would provide police with a useful distinguishing feature. The bearskin hat and smart red uniform made the girls gawp and giggle, but he found sentry duty outside the Tower of London tedious, and the city beyond beckoned.

Chapman had worn a guardsman’s uniform for nine months when he was granted six days’ leave. He told the sergeant major that he was going home. Instead, in the company of an older guardsman, he wandered around Soho and the West End, hungrily eyeing the elegant women draped over the arms of men in sharp suits. In a café in Marble Arch, he noticed a pretty, dark-haired girl, and she spotted him. They danced at Smokey Joe’s in Soho. That night he lost his virginity. She persuaded him to stay another night; he stayed for two months, until they had spent all his pay. Chapman may have forgotten about the army, but the army had not forgotten about him. He was sure the dark-haired girl told the police. Chapman was arrested for going absent without leave, placed in the military prison in Aldershot—the “glasshouse”—and made to scrub out bedpans for eighty-four days. Release and a dishonorable discharge brought to an end his first prison sentence, and his last regular job. Chapman took a bus to London with £3 in his pocket, a fraying suit, and a “jail-crop haircut.” He headed straight for Soho.

Soho in the 1930s was a notorious den of vice, and spectacular fun. This was the crossroads of London society, where the rich and feckless met the criminal and reckless, a place of seamy, raucous glamour. Chapman found work as a barman, then as a film extra, earning £3 for “three days doing crowd work”; he worked as a masseur, a dancer, and eventually as an amateur boxer and wrestler. He was a fine wrestler, physically strong, and lithe as a cat, with a “wire and whipcord body.” This was a world of pimps and racecourse touts, pickpockets and con artists; late nights at Smokey Joe’s and early champagne breakfasts at Quaglino’s. “I mixed with all types of tricky people,” Chapman wrote later. “Racecourse crooks, thieves, prostitutes, and the flotsam of the night-life of a great city.” For the young Chapman, life in this seething, seedy enclave was thrilling. But it was also expensive. He acquired a taste for cognac and the gaming tables. Soon he was penniless.

The thievery started in a small way: a forged check here, a snatched suitcase there, a little light burglary. His early crimes were unremarkable, the first faltering steps of an apprentice.

In January 1935, he was caught in the back garden of a house in Mayfair, and fined £10. A month later, he was found guilty of stealing a check and obtaining credit by fraud. This time the court was less lenient, and Chapman was given two months’ hard labor in Wormwood Scrubs. A few weeks after his release, he was back inside, this time in Wandsworth Prison on a three-month sentence for trespassing and attempted housebreaking.

Chapman branched out into crimes of a more lurid nature. Early in 1936, he was found guilty of “behaving in a manner likely to offend the public” in Hyde Park. Exactly how he was likely to have offended the public was not specified, but he was almost certainly discovered in flagrante delicto with a prostitute. He was fined £4 and made to pay a fee of 15 shillings 9 pence to the doctor who examined him for venereal disease. Two weeks later, he was charged with fraud after he tried to evade payment of a hotel bill.

One contemporary remembers a young man “with good looks, a quick brain, high spirits and something desperate in him which made him attractive to men and dangerous to women.” Desperation may have led him to use the attraction of men for profit, for he once hinted at an early homosexual encounter. Women seemed to find him irresistible. According to one account, he made money by seducing “women on the fringes of society,” blackmailing them with compromising photographs taken by an accomplice and then threatening to show them to their husbands. It was even said that having “infected a girl of 18 with VD, he blackmailed her by threatening to tell her parents that she had given it to him.”

Chapman was on a predictable downward spiral of petty crime, prostitution, blackmail, and lengthening prison terms—punctuated by episodes of wild extravagance in Soho—when a scientific breakthrough in the criminal world abruptly altered his fortunes.

In the early 1930s, British crooks discovered the high explosive gelignite. At about the same time, during one of his stints inside, Chapman discovered James Wells Hunt—the “best cracksman in London”—a “cool, self-possessed, determined character” who had perfected a technique for taking apart safes by drilling a hole in the lock and inserting a “French letter” stuffed with gelignite and water. Jimmy Hunt and Chapman went into partnership and were soon joined by Antony Latt, alias Darrington, alias “Darry,” a nerveless half-Burmese burglar whose father, he claimed, had been a native judge. A young felon named Hugh Anson was recruited to drive their getaway car.

In 1934, the newly formed “Jelly Gang” selected as its first target Isobel’s, a chic furrier in Harrogate. Hunt and Darry broke in and stole five minks, two fox-fur capes, and £200 from the safe. Chapman remained in the car, “shivering with fear and unable to help.” The next was a pawnbroker’s in Grimsby. While Anson revved the Bentley outside to cover the sound of the explosions, Chapman and Hunt broke into an empty house next door, cut their way through the wall, and then blew open four safes. The proceeds, sold through a fence in the West End, netted £15,000. This was followed by a break-in at the Swiss Cottage Odeon cinema using an iron bar, a hit on Express Dairies, and a smash-and-grab raid on a shop in Oxford Street. Escaping from the latter scene, Anson drove the stolen getaway car into a lamppost. As the gang fled, a crowd of onlookers gathered around the smoking vehicle; one, who happened to be a small-time thief, made the mistake of putting his hand on the hood. When his fingerprints were matched with Scotland Yard records, he was sentenced to four years in prison. The Jelly Gang found this most amusing.

Chapman was no longer a reckless petty pilferer, but a criminal of means, and he spent money as fast as he could steal it, mixing with the underworld aristocracy, the gambling playboys, the roué actors, the alcoholic journalists, the insomniac writers, and the dodgy politicians drawn to the demimonde. He became friendly with Noël Coward, Ivor Novello, Marlene Dietrich, and the young filmmaker Terence Young (who would go on to direct the first James Bond film). Young was a suave figure who prided himself on his elegant clothes, his knowledge of fine wine, and his reputation as a lothario. Perhaps in imitation of his new friend, Chapman also began buying suits in Savile Row and driving a fast car. He kept a table reserved at the Nest in Kingley Street, where he held court, surrounded by bottles and girls. Young remarked: “He was able to talk on almost any subject. Most of us knew that he was a crook, but nevertheless we liked him for his manner and personality.”

Young found Chapman intriguing: He made no secret of his trade, yet there was an upright side to his character that the filmmaker found curious. “He is a crook and will always be one,” Young observed to a lawyer friend. “But he probably has more principles and honesty of character than either of us.” Chapman would steal the money from your pocket, even as he bought you a drink, but he never deserted a friend, nor hurt a soul. In a brutal business, he was a pacifist. “I don’t go along with the use of violence,” he declared many years later. “I always made more than a good living out of crime without it.”

Careless, guiltless, and godless, Chapman reveled in his underworld notoriety. He pasted press clippings describing his crimes into a scrapbook. He was particularly delighted when it was reported that police suspected American gangs were behind the recent spate of safecracking because chewing gum had been found at the crime scenes (the Jelly Gang had merely used chewing gum to stick the gelignite to the safes). By the summer of 1935, they had stolen so much money that Chapman and Darry decided to rent a house in Bridport on the Dorset coast for an extended holiday; but after six weeks they grew bored and “went back to ‘work.’ ” Chapman disguised himself as an inspector from the Metropolitan Water Board, gained access to a house in Edgware Road, smashed a hole through the wall into the shop next door, and extracted the safe. This was carried out of the front door, loaded into the Bentley, and taken to Hunt’s garage at 39 St. Luke’s Mews, Notting Hill, where the safe door was blown off.

But cash could not confer all the benefits of class, and mixing with authors and actors, Chapman became conscious of his lack of education. He announced that he intended to become a writer, and began reading widely, plundering English literature in search of knowledge and direction. When asked what he did for a living, Chapman would reply, with a wink, that he was a “professional dancer.” He danced from club to club, from job to job, from book to book, and from woman to woman. Late in 1935, he announced he was getting married, to Vera Freidberg, an exotic young woman with a Russian mother and a German-Jewish father. From her, Chapman picked up a grounding in the German language. But within a few months, he had moved into a boardinghouse in Shepherd’s Bush with another woman, Freda Stevenson, a stage dancer from Southend who was five years his junior. He loved Freda, she was vivacious and sassy; yet when he met Betty Farmer—his “Shropshire Lass”—in the Nite Lite Club, he loved her, too.

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Table of Contents


Prologue     1
The Hotel de la Plage     3
Jersey Gaol     11
Island at War     21
Romainville     29
Villa de la Bretonniere     39
Dr. Graumann     48
Codebreakers     61
The Mosquito     72
Under Unseen Eyes     81
The Drop     89
Martha's Exciting Night     99
Camp 020     106
35 Crespigny Road     117
What a Way Out     130
Freda and Diane     139
Abracadabra     152
The Greater the Adventure     164
Stowaway Spy     178
Joli Albert     185
Damp Squib     198
The Ice Front     209
The Girl at the Ritz     220
Sabotage Consultant     233
Lunch at the Lutetia     242
The Prodigal Crook     253
Doodlebugs     262
Going to the Dogs     271
Case Dismissed     280
Aftermath     290
Epilogue     301
Appendix     307
Acknowledgments     309
Notes     311
Selected Bibliography     349
Index     353
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 71 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 2, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Once a con-man, always a con-man

    Engagingly written to capture the charismatic, roguish charm of WWII British double-agent Eddie Chapman, Macintyre's sweeping history exposes many over looked parts of the WWII saga. For those who are not WWII buffs, the various characters, dynamic relationships and outlandish escapades that emerged in wartime Britain and Germany seem to be straight from the pages of Ian Fleming or an action-adventure magazine. While Chapman remains the central figure, the supporting cast is treated respectfully and is given closure in the Epilogue. At times the plot seems to drag a bit, but otherwise a fast-moving, enjoyable read.

    7 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 31, 2009

    Excellent read

    Enjoyed the book from cover to cover. Very well written and researched. Recommend to anyone who loves to read about war and espionage.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 6, 2009

    vital components of the Double Cross in WWII

    This book was an excellent read for me after having read John Masterman's book about the double cross system over 30 years ago. I am glad that Ben Macintyre was able to get accesss to the archives of MI-5 to write about Zigzag. It is a shame that we have to wait for Governments to release classified information that happened in WWII ! Slowly but surely, we are finding out who the double agents were, their true identities and some of the operations that they were involved in. This is a very good read for anyone, who is a WWII buff !

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 20, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    This tale is what the British used to call a ripping good yarn.

    This tale is what the British used to call a ripping good yarn. Eddie Chapmans' story of his double cross of the German secret service in favor of the British while MI5 doubted his every move during WW2 is a story for the ages. Chapmans motives are never really clear but his actions undoubtly helped hte British efforts during the war while the his Nazi spymasters praised his dedication to their efforts to win the war and even awarded him the Iron Cross. His story validates that old saying that truth is stranger than fiction. This book is a good read not only for fans of WW2 or spy stories but for anyone who enjoys a good story. Ben Macintyre really does justice to his subject - as a reader I couldn't figure out Chapmans motives or his alliances - but the author also takes the readers into the machinations and mindset of WW2 espionage on both sides of the conflict. Fascinating stuff. Macintyre write in a Non-fiction as novel style but still manges to fill his books with numerous details and memerable characters and events. A book as much about Eddie Chapman as it is the unsung heroes he crossed paths with both on the side of the conflict.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 23, 2012

    Better Than Fiction

    A rousing good read, even better than the well done books and movies based on such WWII events. Eddie Chapman was a scoundrel and patriot who is hard not to like. The author does a fine job of describing the story's myriad characters and details in a way that can be easily followed.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 19, 2011

    Disappointed

    I was a really disappointed with this book. It did not come close to living up to its hype. While I understand the author's premise of showing how an unregenerate criminal can be patriotic and extremely useful as a spy, this could have been accomplished in about three chapters. Eddie Chapman had two episodes, both in England, where he acted very effectively as a double agent. These two episodes and preceding chapters, were separated by his time in German hands with endless reporting on his drinking, womanizing and training. Yeah, we got it! I would have liked to have known how the British handlers set him up for transmissions to Germany. How were his messages concocted, what was sent, more details on how the Germans received the information and much more. I was most disappointed about the description of Chapman's "exposure" and demise. It was such an anti-climax. One of their most successful double agents is exposed and expelled by a vindictive handler on the most flimsy evidence with essentially no investigation by the hierarchy of MI5. It seems hard to believe.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 17, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Deliciously Fun Read

    Who said non-fiction can't be fun? I read a lot of non-fiction and actually enjoy the minutiae of political philosophy, histoirical context, etc. But, everyone once in a while it is refreshing to read the personal tales of those who lived the moment. Macintyre's account of Eddie Chapman: English crook turned German spy-turned British Intel agent does just that, and it is deliciously fun to read!

    "Fiction has not, and probably never will, produce an espionage story to rival in fascination and improbability the true story of Edward Chapman, whom only war could invest with virtue,and that only for its duration." Tin Eye Stephens, British interrogator (pg 287)

    Eddie Chapman started as a petty thief and his criminal career escalated to crack lock aficionado landing him in a prison that eventually came under German control. Chapman, looking for a way off the island, offered his services to the German army reasoning that his British citizenship, knowledge of explosives, and criminal history made him the ideal candidate to spy on his home country. The Germans took him up on his offer and trained him as a spy. Parachuted back into England Chapman immediately contacts MI5 and offers to spy on the Germans.

    There are so many things to love about this book. First, Chapman is a fascinating psychological study. He is a crook and can't be trusted. Everything that comes out of his mouth is suspect. Yet while the Germans fed his ego and offered the financial gain Chapman seemed to constantly pursue, he did remain loyal to the British cause and was the source of many successes. Secondly, I learned a lot. I have read a great deal about the success of MI5 and the SOE. They are fascinating agencies to read about. Macintyre does a very good job of showing how the Germans Intel shortcomings actually elevated their British counterparts. Thirdly, key players in other arenas make appearances like Jasper Maskelyne, the magician who is well known for his illusions in the North Africa campaing and Terrence Young who went on to create James Bond. Finally, there are the heroic actions of many individuals that make WWII a favorite among historical readers.

    Highly recommend it. It is an easy read, entertaining, and informative all at the the same time.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 1, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Thrilling True Story

    Wow! What an amazing story! Great research and writing that never stands still. It's the story of a double agent in World War II, and how he was "handled" on both sides. It's a good, solid story and I am happy to recommend it!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 19, 2008

    Fair

    Agent Zigzag was nothing spectacular to me. Yeah, the man was a great double agent no doubt playing Germany to a tee. But for me it wasn't great but definatly a good weekend read. If your interested in spies it's a good book for you.

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 31, 2014

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 6, 2013

    Excellent

    ?

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 20, 2013

    Great book

    Completely worth reading from cover to cover

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 28, 2012

    Agent Zigzag

    Eddie Chapman, a handsome British explosive expert, professional thief and womanizer, became a double agent for his home country England, against Nazi Germany's Abwehr. Was Zigzag truly a double agent? A good read for a long, cold week-end. MDK75

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 5, 2012

    Great story!

    Very interesting and hard to believe that all that really happened. But it must be true. Recommend to anyone interested in WWII history.

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  • Posted May 7, 2011

    Great Story, Terrific Read

    This is a great true story that reads like a terrific spy novel. You can't stop reading it once you start!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 6, 2010

    Agent Zigzag will keep up late turning pages!

    Agent Zigzag will be impossible to put down for other long time fans of World War 2 historical nonfiction like myself. I found this totally absorbing, funny in places, totally engrossing, mysterious, chilling, and educational. The reader is introduced to new facets of the British resistance and the German determination to conquer England. Windows were opened to the secrets of the British and how they survived, including introducing me to the Mosquito military aircraft. The fighter bomber was a remarkable war bird that I was totally unfamiliar with, and its story emphasizes the resolve and ingenuity of the British to withstand the overwhelming military superiority of the Germanys. It's design and construction and involvement in the war gives even more meaning to the "never have so many owed so much too so few" Churchill statement. And of course the totally unexpected inevitable twists that occur as the protagonist fights his way through the adventure will totally irritate and frustrate the most patriotic reader.

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  • Posted January 13, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    When Non Fiction is Better Than Fiction-ZigZag Delivers !

    About half-way through reading this book, I commented to a friend that they should make a movie out of it. I did a quick search on Google and found out that one was on track for 2010. Agent Zigzag, the true story of a British double agent that infiltrated Nazi Germany and greatly helped the Allied cause during the Second World War, is that good. Ben Macintyre, takes us through the life of Eddie Chapman, a career criminal who used his good looks and and smooth talking to woe women, criminals, cops, spies and everyone in between. Always one step ahead of the police, he enjoyed the good life as a successful criminal, involved in safe cracking and many burglaries. Then in 1940, things changed. On the Isle of Jersey, he was finally caught. While in prison, the war broke out and the island was under Nazis rule. After his release, he offered his services to the Germans as a spy, mostly out of boredom. Nothing happened. Later under accusations of sabotage, he and a friend were falsely charged and were later transferred to a prison in Nazi Occupied France. A few months later the Germans took him up on his offer and his life of intrigue, double-crossing, love and betrayal as a spy had begun.
    The book takes us through Chapman's training in France, his missions to Great Britain, Portugal, Germany and Norway. The cast of characters are real as are the daily dangers this hero faced. I say hero because he was one. He changed sides immediately on his drop into Great Britain, and became probably the best spy in the Allies efforts during the war. Along the way he loved and betrayed many women, but in the end we see the passion and honesty of this man. A complicated character, sometime hot, sometimes cold, one is unsure of his true motives-but in the end his actions saved thousands of lives. Hunted and admired by many on both sides, Eddie Chapman was always one step ahead of danger and always kept the most important thing in focus-'the mission'. Agent Zigzag, is a fun read. I could not put this book down. Having a basic knowledge of dates and events of the war will be helpful to put things in perspective, but it is not necessary since the author recaps them quite well. Of note is that many of the British intelligence Service agents in M15, were directly and indirectly involved in the creation of the characters and ideas in many of the James Bond 007 movies. As Tin Eye Stephens, Agent Zigzag's superior at M15 said, " Fiction has not, and probably never will, produce an espionage story to rival in fascination and improbability the true story of Edward Chapman, who in only in war could invest with virtue and that only for its duration". Equal or better to most great spy stories, this one is a cut above-because it is true.
    Robert Glasker

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  • Posted September 7, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I had expected more

    Having read extensively about this subject I was excited to find this book. However, I was somewhat disappointed as it failed to live up to its billing as an "exciting" tale. It was really rather mundane.

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 19, 2009

    A waste of time

    Contains too much trivia.

    0 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 30, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 71 Customer Reviews

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