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Zigzag: The Incredible Wartime Exploits of Double Agent Eddie Chapman Hardcover – September 4, 2007


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 408 pages
  • Publisher: Arcade Publishing; First Edition edition (September 4, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1559708603
  • ISBN-13: 978-1559708609
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.4 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,359,324 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Broadcaster and author Booth (The Encyclopedia of Space) mines the newly released World War II records of Britain's Secret Intelligence Service (MI5) for this lively and sympathetic account of celebrated double agent Eddie Chapman. A petty criminal, Chapman was incarcerated in a Jersey jail when the Germans occupied the Channel Islands in 1940. After his release, he offered to work for German military intelligence and received training as a saboteur and spy in occupied France. He parachuted into England in 1942 with orders to blow up an aircraft factory, but contacted British intelligence once on the ground. Despite their misgivings—his handlers variously described Chapman as a very strange character and a man without any scruples—MI5 employed him as a double agent for the remainder of the war. There are legitimate questions as to the enigmatic Chapman's motivation, but Booth, who collaborated with Chapman's widow, Betty, invariably sides with the double agent against his critics. In Booth's judgment, Chapman was the most remarkable spy of the Second World War, and his treatment by British intelligence was shameful. Whether rogue or patriot, his story makes for intriguing reading, but Booth's transparent cheerleading for Chapman detracts from an otherwise enjoyable biography. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Booth's Zig Zag is the longer of the two, going into greater detail about Eddie's life before he became a spy and into the histories of some of the people he knew and worked with. Drawing heavily on the memories of Eddie's widow, Betty Chapman, as well as recently declassified documents (such as Chapman's MI5 file), the book tells a very personal, intimate story. Booth also takes pains to remind us, from time to time, that Eddie, who wrote or authorized several autobiographical works in the 1950s and 1960s, was a habitual and expert liar and that nothing he says about himself should be taken at face value. The book, therefore, has an air of mystery about it, and despite the author's extensive documentation, we wonder at the end if we have yet heard the real story of Eddie Chapman. Pitt, David

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Customer Reviews

A well written and thoroughly researched book.
Ronald T. Roseborough
Forgive me if I'm wrong here, but "unbending" is another word for inflexible or stubborn, no?
A. Currie
I felt little excitement and no sympathy for him.
David Island

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By R. Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on September 29, 2007
Format: Hardcover
During World War II, Eddie Chapman bore the codename "Zigzag", given to him by his British masters at MI5. Such names were supposed to be close to meaningless; the point was to keep Chapman and his work secret. But some spymaster allowed a shade of meaning into Chapman's designator; he had zigged through the British criminal underworld, zagged through the ranks of German espionage, and MI5 had trouble understanding where he was coming from or where he would show up next. "Without a doubt he was the most remarkable spy of the Second World War," writes Nicholas Booth in _Zigzag: The Incredible Wartime Exploits of Double Agent Eddie Chapman_ (Arcade Publishing). Chapman has had his biographies before, and even a couple of autobiographies which are not really to be trusted because, well, he was Eddie Chapman, and also because of censorship restrictions, still in place when Chapman brought out his "real" story in 1966. Now the official secrecy is lifted and archives opened, and with the help of Chapman's longsuffering but devoted widow, Booth has researched Chapman's story as much as it probably will ever be. It's one of those stories that if it were brought out as a novel, it would be dismissed as lacking any grounds for credibility. Chapman was a clever, devious fellow, and MI5 harnessed the deviousness without ever rewarding him or acknowledging how much the nation was in Chapman's debt.

Chapman was born in 1914 and drifted to London in the mid-1930s, where, in his own words, he "met and mixed with all types of tricky people, racecourse crooks, touts, thieves, prostitutes and the flotsam of the nightlife of a great city." He was a small-time crook and went on to a specialty of blowing up safes.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Ronald T. Roseborough VINE VOICE on June 3, 2009
Format: Hardcover
ZigZag is the true story of Eddie Chapman, a double agent for the British in World War II. His early life as a career criminal, was interrupted when he was captured on the Isle of Jersey, by the invading Germans. After some time in jail, he convinced the German's he would spy on England for them. He was trained in espionage and dropped by parachute into England , where his first act was to turn himself in and offer to work for the British as a double agent against the Germans. His life is a series of twists and turns, always searching for the next adventure, always crossing the line from petty criminal to conman, from spy to counterspy. A well written and thoroughly researched book. Sometimes it is hard for us or Eddie to tell which road he has chosen to travel.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Frank M. Mutz on October 2, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Great book. Gripping. The reader gets a good understanding of war life for civilians, law enforcement, and spies in England, France, and Germany during World War II. I could not put this book down.
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A. Currie on February 1, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Perhaps my one-sentence summary is a tad harsh. But this book could really use a good editor. The general style is fine - nothing wrong with colloquial turns-of-phrase dominating such books, to my mind. And it does, in places, flow well and the overall style does at times complement the story itself.

But Booth's prose is peppered with errors and slips. His sentences often read as if they have been written quickly and only reviewed in a cursory manner. Booth often falls into the trap of replacing colloquial with cliche, can be repetitive - whether with word shadows or with events - and occasionally uses phrases whose meaning is the exact opposite of what he's trying to convey. For example, when asserting that one of Chapman's British interrogators was perhaps warming to him slightly, he writes "He soon became aware that his tormentor was unbending slightly." Forgive me if I'm wrong here, but "unbending" is another word for inflexible or stubborn, no?

And for what it's worth his use of, and translation from, German is at times atrocious - though that probably marks me out for the pedant I am!

Beyond that, the only big flaw is that Booth is too willing to give Chapman and his wife the benefit of the doubt - when a wife who has been continuously cheated on says it wasn't the man's fault that women came after him, that's not grounds for dismissing Chapman's reputation as a Lothario. It's more like someone trying to deceive herself.

BUT, it is a cracking story, and Booth has researched the subject well - though I tend to agree that Chapman's actual effectiveness is somewhat overblown. So despite the flaws, I still enjoyed it - I like the subject matter, and the structure Booth puts into the story works well. The writing, though, drops it to a two star from three or even possibly four stars.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By John Lellis on March 28, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A fascinating read that had me turning pages deep into the night. And, the most amazing thing is that it's a true story! Good reading for anyone with a Walter Mitty complex or who just enjoys a good yarn.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Jeff M on March 30, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Although the narrative style of 'Zigzag' by Nicholas Booth isn't as fast paced as Ben Macintyre's 'Agent Zigzag' (which, incidentally, also details the life and adventures of real life WWII superspy Eddie Chapman and was published at the same time) it provides much background and historical context material left out of Macintyre's book. My suggestion, though, is to read Macintyre's 'Agent Zigzag' first. It reads like a great spy novel; once you pick it up, you can't put it down, and it's all true! (I was glued to it and finished it in two nights.) If your reaction is anything like mine, you'll want to know more and you can find it in this more measured account provided by Nicholas Booth in 'Zigzag.' I highly recommend both books. They are well worth reading, not to mention making into a movie! - Tom Hanks, if I remember correctly, has bought the movie rights, but a film has yet to be made.

(I received no compensation whatsoever for the endorsement of these two books.)
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