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Agent Zigzag: A True Story of Nazi Espionage, Love, and Betrayalby Ben Macintyre
"Who can account for the popularity of the spy thriller? I can't, and I've read dozens of them, fiction and nonfiction. But I've never read a better true spy tale than Agent Zigzag, the story of Eddie Chapman, a charming British criminal who metamorphosed into one of the most brilliant double agents ever run by the Brits." Mary Ann Gwinn, The Seattle Times (read the entire Seattle Times review)
Synopses & Reviews
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 Chapmans death, MI5 has now declassified all of Chapmans 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.
"'London Times associate 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.' Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Superb. Meticulously researched, splendidly told, immensely entertaining and often very moving." John le Carré
"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
"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 gripping story of loyalty, love, and treachery, this history of Eddie Chapman--the most successful British double agent in World War II--offers a unique glimpse into the psychology of espionage, and the thin line between fidelity and betrayal, courage and cowardice. Illustrated.
About the Author
Ben Macintyre is writer-at-large and associate editor of the London Times. He is the author of The Man Who Would Be King, the Englishman's Daughter, The Napoleon of Crime, and Forgotten Fatherland. He lives in London with his wife, the novelist Kate Muir, and their three children
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