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Agent Zigzag: The True Wartime Story of Eddie Chapman: The Most Notorious Double Agent of World War II [Paperback]

Ben Macintyre
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (328 customer reviews)
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Book Description

2 Aug 2010
One December night in 1942, a Nazi parachutist landed in a Cambridgeshire field. His mission: to sabotage the British war effort. His name was Eddie Chapman, but he would shortly become MI5's Agent Zigzag. Dashing and louche, courageous and unpredictable, the traitor was a patriot inside, and the villain a hero. The problem for Chapman, his many lovers and his spymasters was knowing who he was. Ben Macintyre weaves together diaries, letters, photographs, memories and top-secret MI5 files to create the exhilarating account of Britain's most sensational double agent.

Frequently Bought Together

Agent Zigzag: The True Wartime Story of Eddie Chapman: The Most Notorious Double Agent of World War II + Operation Mincemeat: The True Spy Story That Changed the Course of World War II + Double Cross: The True Story of The D-Day Spies
Price For All Three: £14.17

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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (2 Aug 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1408811499
  • ISBN-13: 978-1408811498
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (328 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 4,102 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Ben Macintyre is a columnist and Associate Editor on The Times. He has worked as the newspaper's correspondent in New York, Paris and Washington. He is the author of seven previous books including Agent Zigzag, the story of wartime double-agent Eddie Chapman, which was shortlisted for the Costa Biography Award and the Galaxy British Book Award for Biography of the Year 2008. Operation Mincemeat: The True Spy Story that Changed the Course of World War II, published in January 2010, is the thrilling true story of the greatest and most successful wartime deception ever attempted. He lives in London with his wife and three children.

(Photo credit: Jerry Bauer)

Product Description

Review

'This is the most amazing book, full of fascinating and hair-raising true life adventures ... it would be impossible to recommend it too highly' Mail on Sunday 'Superb. Meticulously researched, splendidly told, immensely entertaining and often very moving' John le Carre 'It is unlikely that a more engaging study of espionage and deception will be published this year' The Times 'Macintyre tells Chapman's tale in a perfect pitch ... Macintyre never misses a delightful, haunting or terrifying detail ... Buy it for dads everywhere but read it too' Observer

Book Description

The true wartime story of Eddie Chapman, lover, betrayer, hero and spy. Abridged edition. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
58 of 62 people found the following review helpful
By Julia Flyte TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Audio CD
This highly entertaining and utterly gripping audio CD 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.

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.

The audio book is made up of 5 CDs and plays for about 6 hours. It is beautifully read and very clearly enunciated. While it is an abridged version of the book, it has been very skillfully adapted and (having also read the book) I can tell you that they've done an excellent job of maintaining all the key points.
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38 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars First-rate account of a double agent. 2 Sep 2007
Format:Paperback
This is tremendous book; well-researched and well written. The author, Ben Macintyre deals with Eddie Chapman as though he was one of Chapman's Security Service handlers; questioning everything, giving praise where appropriate but never quite trusting him. He describes Chapman as `a shameless liar', sentiments with which I fully agree. There is no doubt that Chapman did a good service for his country since he convincingly bluffed the Germans but he `tried it on' with everybody he encountered and I wonder which way he would have jumped if the allies had lost the war?

A gripping account of England's most famous double agent.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A bucketful of adventure 3 Sep 2007
By A Common Reader TOP 50 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback
Ben Macintyre gained access to a vast amount of previously unavailable material about Agent Zigzag, before writing this book. The result is a fast-paced narrative describing the "amazing" (it really is) career of Eddie Chapman as safe-cracker, con-artist and heroic British double agent.

Chapman was captured by the Germans while in prison in Jersey (where he had committed further crimes to add to those he was on the run from on the mainland). He was able to convince his captors that he would make good spy material and before long found himself training at an elite spy school in France run by the German Secret Service, the Abwhehr (who turned out be an surprisingly un-Nazi bunch of aristocrats and eccentrics). The lifestyle at the chateaux was more like an exclusive gentleman's club, but the curriculum included bomb-making and sabotage as well as in-depth morse code and radio operation.

Possibly one of the most interesting aspects of this book is the relationship Chapman developed with his spymaster, Dr Grauman, an anti-Nazi German who ended up becoming a life-long friend of Chapman.

Chapman finds himself on active service for the Germans before being parachuted into England, where he promptly turned himself in to MI5 and was subjected to intense de-briefing and interrogation. Realising his worth, the British decided to use him as a double agent and returned him to Germany (via a remarkable sea-voyage to Lisbon), where the atmosphere had changed, and Chapman had to go through even more intensive interrogation before the Germans believed that he was reliable. Eventually ending up in German-occupied Norway, Eddie gained a huge amount of knowledge of German operations.
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87 of 98 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why spy? 11 Jun 2007
Format:Paperback
So here we are in the morally ambivalent noughties looking back at the morally ambivalent forties. Increasingly we have learned that wars have heroes and villains on both sides (think Abu Ghraib; the Balkans; the Killing Fields; etc.) and that there are degrees of heroism and villainry. Perhaps because of the result, and the propaganda, and the Commando comics, we used to think of World War II as a simple good (Brits) v bad (Nazis) episode. Then we found out about Schindler, the Nazis' Mr Fixit who quietly set about saving Jewish families. Now we find the equally egregious Eddie Chapman: a violent English criminal who saved the lives of thousands of Londoners and helped to shorten the War. Like Schindler, pre-war, Chapman was an energetic chancer, perhaps surprised when the greater villainy of Nazism shook his sleeping conscience into action.

Ben Macintyre's characters positively leap off the page; most of all Chapman himself, plus his English and German handlers, and wonderfully-drawn cameos including the Enigma codebreakers, a rough-sleeping brainiac spymaster, a pair of hilariously world-weary London "minders", an explosive aristocrat, and a celebrity magician. Other assorted gangsters, molls and fellow agents, on every front of the war, seem to have had shared a love of partying hard as conflict raged around them - wartime images of austerity have tended to make us forget that, when they knew that any of them could die at any time, the risk-seekers chose to live life to the colourful max. Looking for a pattern to resolve the contradictions of Chapman's c.v., Macintyre repeatedly points to his phenomenal energy - it makes sense that a man with such an all-consuming love of life would pour this energy into dangerous pursuits.
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