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Agent Zigzag: A True Story of Nazi Espionage, Love, and Betrayal Hardcover – September 4, 2007
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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 Chapmanâs death, MI5 has now declassified all of Chapmanâs 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.
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This is purely about Eddie Chapman and his love of excitement (as least it was exciting for him) and putting his life on the line into the unknown role of double spy. Unfortunately for the reader, the book concentrates on the mundane learning of various espionage antics that are never used. He was wined and dined by both sides and given anything that he wanted. But what does he really do to earn this treatment? Very little - a couple of weeks of misguidance during the V1 bombings and some misdirection about anti-submarine devices, but nothing in any detail. As this story is told, the ineptness of the German spy ring to England was interesting but hardly something that becomes a page turner.
I was expecting to learn more of the British Intelligence and how they handled the intricacies of the double spy. Other stories that I have read have shown the British to be light years ahead of everyone in this business, but you get only a glimpse of their thinking; almost as if it is tangential to the plot. There could have been some interesting detail on the alluded to, but never really divulged nervousness at the wireless. The reader never gets a feel for the danger involved. The story is too vague.
Eddie Chapman was a pawn used by both England and Germany and really never did anything that can be gleaned from this book for either party except to put a feather in each "spymaster's" cap for their respective governments. There are other acts of sabotage by other agents that are mentioned in the book, but basically nothing interesting is from the main character.
It seems that Chapman's life consisted of living in one hamlet after another while he was "trained" (with at least one woman in both England and in Norway) with one group of spymasters in one country or another for most of the book.
The author did a nice job with the description of what was happening in Norway with the Nazi occupation, but again you are left wanting more details and that was one chapter.
I guess I expected more thrills and danger. This was like a spy club for singles. The Germans are portrayed as totally bubbling idiots in almost all phases of the book. The politics of the situation were not very well explained. There is quite a bit of haggling over whether Chapman was a good spy or a counter intelligence spy by the German authorities, but the author doesn't go into any detail of the decision process.
It seems to me that this is a book about an small time crook that attempted to throw himself into anything that was life-threatening with the rewards of a romp in the sack and as much money as he could get. It does make for somewhat interesting reading, but I can't help but feel that the book was written with a movie in mind; it has that vague and incomplete feel that a movie book has.