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Zigzag: The incredible wartime exploits of double agent Eddie Chapman Paperback – 15 Jan 2007

4.6 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Portrait (15 Jan. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0749951567
  • ISBN-13: 978-0749951566
  • Product Dimensions: 15.5 x 2.5 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,524,506 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

Nicholas Booth's engossing account of Eddie Chapman's exploits is a gripping page turner... an excellent portrait of this slippery real-life agent and conman. (David Stafford, author of Churchill AND Secret Service)

Nicholas Booth's compelling and well-researched biography. (Richard Basseett, London Evening Standard)

About the Author

Nicholas Booth is a writer and broadcaster. For ten years, he worked as a journalist, starting his career with the Observer, and ending up as technology editor on The Times. He lives in Cheshire.


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Format: Paperback
I'd never heard of Eddie Chapman before, so the story of this Second World War double agent astounded me - if it was fiction, you'd think it absurdly far-fetched! Eddie seems to have been a right villain (though his widow Betty rather sweetly denies he was an ace safecracker). But like Oscar Schindler, he proved that sometimes war can bring out the best in even out and out rogues - not many supposedly moral citizens would have had Eddie's ice-cool courage in fooling the Germans he was spying for them for so long. One slip and he was a dead man. In this thrilling book, Nick Booth has made good use of the recently-released M15 interrogation files; and the redoubtable Betty Chapman - who stoically endured Eddie's numerous infidelties- has made a touching contiribution to the memory of a great British hero.
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Format: Paperback
Zig-Zag is hugely enjoyable. If this was fiction you would dismiss it as too far fetched, but Eddie Chapman was one of those larger than life characters who crossed into the realm of the truly extraordinary when he was freed from a Jersey prison to work as a German spy. But the would-be collaborator turned double agent, sparking a chain of events that catapulted him into a real-life deadly game of cat and mouse deception.

This book chronicles, in entertaining fashion, the extraordinary exploits of this most unlikely of war heroes. And it does this in a totally non-judgemental way. It is one of those rare finds: a real page turner that is both well written and easy to read, and obviously well researched. Clearly, the author had privileged access to Eddie's widow and recently de-classified material, unearthing vivid new material. If you like dusty old biographies, this isn't the book for you.

What I particularly liked was the pace of the narrative and its no-nonsense depiction of the seemingly irreconcilable contradictions in Eddie's life. He was a womaniser but obviously respected and loved his wife, and as a criminal he fought the establishment but gambled with his life to protect it - the consummate double agent. Perhaps the greatest irony was that the Germans, not the British, awarded him a medal. Like all good conundrums, the book keeps us guessing by letting the reader decide what made this extraordinary man tick. That's a good thing, for I'd like to believe there is an Eddie Chapman somewhere in us all.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If only half of what he wrote about is true, he still had an extraordinary adventure.
This DVD, seems to be a bit of a publicity stunt - I'm even less convinced by it, than I was of the book, after several years have passed since I read it. It's an interesting story, based on some truth, in my opinion.
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If ever a man deserved to be awarded a medal for his wartime work it was Eddie Chapman, sadly the the powers that be never did award him one. However after reading this book one cannot but admire the sheer cheek and audacity of this "lovable rogue". The book is very well written and holds your interest from start to finish it was hard to put down. If you like History and a cracking good book you cannot do better than buy this one, on a final note RIP Eddie.
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Format: Paperback
This book came out around the same time as Agent Zigzag, which draws on the same facts but goes into a lot more detail about Chapman's relationship with his German (Abwehr) handlers, trainers and, it can be said up to a point, friends. However, this present book is also a very good read and well-researched etc.

Chapman, born of an English father and Jewish mother (that never mentioned to his German handlers, of course!) on Wearside in Northeast England was never quite the master criminal he was later painted, though he was prolific and, though caught more than once before WW2, successful, partiularly in carrying out that archetypal 1930's "professional" crime, safeblowing, using (mainly) gelignite. In prison in Jersey when the island was taken over by the forces of the Reich, he offered his services to German Intelligence. They eventually took the bait, but Chapman, either out of patriotism, or, like most agents of all colours or types, out of mixed motives, made contact in the end with British Intelligence on arrival in the UK (by parachute). He did not get on well with the Oxford don who headed the XX Committee (Twenty Committee, Double Cross Committee), charged with "playing back" German agents. For a long time after WW2, it was assumed by many that the British simply ran rings around their opponents, but this was a game with two (main) players and the Germans had their own successes (cf. the "Englandspiel").

Chapman was sent back to Occupied Europe and to a mainly rapturous but partly guarded welcome. The SD and Gestapo were markedly more suspicious of Chapman than his own direct employers, the Abwehr, which was only subsumed into the SD (Sicherheitsdienst or Security Service), an SS entity headed by Walter Schellenberg, after early 1944.

I can recommend this book, as also the other one I have cited. As to the film Triple Cross, based loosely on Chapman's activities, it is OK but no more than that.
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Eddie Chapman, the subject of Nicholas Booth's engrossing biography, was essentially a man of his time and generation. From a modest background in Sunderland, his craving for excitement led him to London where he mixed with criminals as a safe-cracker, to Jersey where he landed in prison, and to occupied France where he threw himself into the arms of German Intelligence. The Germans trained him as a spy and saboteur and parachuted him into England where he threw himself into the arms of British Intelligence. For the rest of the war he served as a double agent, returning to Germany and being parachuted back into England a second time.

These exploits, even in the highly-charged atmosphere of a major war, would simply be unbelievable were it not for the access the author has had to declassified Intelligence files and to the memories and papers of Chapman's widow. They make for a fast-moving, gripping narrative which benefits from Booth's placing of Chapman's escapades within the wider context of the war.

There are moments where the reader may feel the story doesn't quite hang together. On one page Eddie is said to have passed idle days in Paris on the tourist boats; the following page portrays a Paris of food shortages, disrupted rail services and the impossibility of tourism. There are references to "field security policemen,' but in my personal experience of field security towards the end of the forties neither I, nor any of my colleagues, would have seen ourselves as policemen. The mention of an army "captain" with "two pips" on his shoulder is a lapse in accuracy that could easily have been avoided.

But these are minor niggles which cannot ultimately detract from a detailed account of the life of an extraordinary man.
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