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Agent Zigzag: A True Story of Nazi Espionage, Love, and Betrayal Paperback – August 12, 2008


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Agent Zigzag: A True Story of Nazi Espionage, Love, and Betrayal + Operation Mincemeat: How a Dead Man and a Bizarre Plan Fooled the Nazis and Assured an Allied Victory + Double Cross: The True Story of the D-Day Spies
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 364 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books; Reprint edition (August 12, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307353419
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307353412
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 12 x 12 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (249 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #14,446 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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. (Oct. 9)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Bookmarks Magazine

Past writers have attempted to recount this fascinating bit of history, but lack of information and official censorship have kept the full story from being told. Thanks to Britain’s Freedom of Information Act, Eddie Chapman’s voluminous MI5 files are now available to the public, and Ben Macintyre has made full use of them in this riveting tale. Critics unanimously praised Macintyre’s talents: his fluid writing style, his ability to build suspense, and his biting humor. Vivid descriptions, deft characterizations, and exhilarating action scenes (as well as secret codes, invisible ink, explosives disguised as household objects, parachute drops, cyanide capsules, and beautiful women) put Agent Zigzag on a par with any great spy novel or thriller.
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

BEN MACINTYRE is writer-at-large and associate editor of the Times of London. He is the author of Agent Zigzag, 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.

Customer Reviews

Interesting story and well written.
Jay
Agent Zigzag by Ben Macintyre is the true story of Eddie Chapman, a criminal-turned-spy and his role as "Agent Zigzag" during WWII.
katherine tomlinson
This is a really good book that I am enjoying reading a great deal.
R.Sharp

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

194 of 198 people found the following review helpful By Dai-keag-ity on September 13, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Over and over through the years as I've read books about real life spies ("Comrade" Kim Philby and Sidney Reilly among others) I've been struck by how much more amazing these non-fiction stories were than those concocted as would-be pulp fiction thrillers. I've also been struck at how all the best spies were anything but good people, and they shared traits of cruelty and self-love that bordered on sociopathic narcissism. Ben Macintyre's biography of Eddie Chapman gives us a man who continues that dubious tradition. This page-turner is fact-filled and well-written and the life it tells of outdoes anything fiction has cranked out in quite a while. It's a very enjoyable read that presented the history of someone I personally had never heard of before I was introduced to him in this book.

Eddie Chapman was no James Bond or even a Sidney Reilly, but he was one of the boldest, most brazen con men ever to serve a nation or a cause, and in so doing he found some redemption from the wrongs of his earlier life. From his days as a roguish charmer who infiltrated high society and first infatuated and later blackmailed rich women in the most callous and base ways imaginable, this safecracker, thief and extortionist found himself sprung by the Germans early in the war when he was then serving a fifteen-year sentence in an English prison in the Channel Islands.

The charismatic Chapman, as liked by his German liberators as by those who'd known him back home, was then recruited by the Nazis as a spy who agreed to do their bidding and sabotage a British aircraft factory in Hertfordshire. He parachuted back onto his native soil during the busy Christmas season of 1942, only to prove his ultimate loyalty by going to the British and offering to in turn spy on the Germans.
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62 of 66 people found the following review helpful By Julia Flyte TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 11, 2007
Format: Hardcover
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.
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50 of 53 people found the following review helpful By David M. Dougherty VINE VOICE on August 10, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Ah, the story of Eddie Chapman; long awaited and finally produced (actually two of them on the same day, but the thrust of "Zigzag" by Booth ruled it out for me.) I had read Masterman's "The Double-Cross System in the War from 1939 to 1945" which gave Chapman six pages, seen the movie "Triple-Cross", and wondered what the story really was. The movie bore no resemblance to the truth as usual, but finding out the truth in spy stories is always a realm where educated guess and conjecture must fill in the frustrating blanks. Chapman's story rings true in every respect and well worth the read over the 2-4 nights it provides.

Earlier reviewers have exalted or condemned Chapman, so allow me to state that essentially all spies/agents have a screw loose and a yen for danger, excitement and feeling special. They operate with governmental assistance well above the law -- a heady role that must in itself be its own reward. Few if any spies for western democracies have been justly rewarded for their endeavors, as such rewards are generally denied under the rubric of maintaining security. Most ex-agents are relegated to obscurity and penury while some are "terminated with extreme prejudice" (killed) if they are considered as security risks. In this respect, working for a totalitarian government like that in the old USSR has its rewards, as they tend to resettle ex-agents in government positions. There is something about a democracy that makes a spy untrustworthy to the public and unworthy of its respect. As such, Chapman was no exception.

Agent handlers or case officers are usually like Ryde, Chapman's last British handler -- bureaucrats playing it safe and willing to sacrifice their agents.
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