- Paperback: 364 pages
- Publisher: Broadway Books; Reprint edition (August 12, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0307353419
- ISBN-13: 978-0307353412
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 520 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #36,654 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Paperback – August 12, 2008
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“Macintyre is the more graceful writer; Agent Zigzag has a clarity and shape that make it the more fluid account… I would give a personal nod to Macintyre’s as the better book… A review cannot possibly convey the sheer fun of this story… or the fascinating moral complexities.”
—New York Times Book Review
“[Agent Zigzag’s] incredible wartime adventures, recounted in Ben Macintyre’s rollicking, spellbinding Agent Zigzag blend the spy-versus-spy machinations of John le Carré with the high farce of Evelyn Waugh.”
—The New York Times
“Chapman’s story has been told in fragments in the past, but only when MI5 declassified his files was it possible to present it in all its richness and complexity. Macintyre tells it to perfection, with endless insights into the horror and absurdity of war….Eddie Chapman was a patriot, in his fashion, and this excellent book finally does him justice.”
—The Washington Post Book World
"Fact sounds like fast-moving fiction in this espionage saga of a man who was probably the most improbable double agent to emerge in World War II. ... The author has written an enormously fascinating book about an enormously fascinating man. The late Eddie Chapman would have been delighted to at last capture the limelight denied him by the restrictions of his wartime profession. The question now is, who will make the movie and who will play the lead? Too bad Errol Flynn is dead."
“[R]ichly descriptive, marvelously illuminating, and just plain brilliant….One could not think of a better subject for Macintyre's curious mind than the man whom British intelligence dubbed Agent Zigzag in December 1942…. [A] plot - impossible and pointless to summarize - that is as briskly paced and suspenseful as any novel's. Macintyre's diligent research and access to once-secret files combine here with his gift of empathetic imagination and inspired re-creation. He writes with brio and a festive spirit and has quite simply created a masterpiece.”
—The Boston Globe
"Superb. Meticulously researched, splendidly told, immensely entertaining and often very moving."
—John le Carré
“Macintyre [relates] his compellingly cinematic spy thriller with verve.”
—Entertainment Weekly (an “EW Pick”)
“Agent Zigzag is a true-history thriller, a real spy story superbly written. It belongs to my favorite genre: the ‘Friday night book’–start it then, because you will want to stay with it all weekend.”
“A portrait of a man who double-crossed not only the Nazis, but just about every other principle and person he encountered. In doing so, Eddie Chapman made all thriller writers’ jobs harder, because this spy tale trumps any fiction.”
“One of the most extraordinary stories of the Second World War.”
—William Boyd, The Sunday Telegraph
“This is the most amazing book, full of fascinating and hair-raising true-life adventures…and beautifully told. For anyone interested in the Second World War, spying, romance, skullduggery or the hidden chambers of the human mind, it would be impossible to recommend it too highly.”
—The Mail on Sunday
“Speaking as a former MI6 officer, take it from me: there are very few books which give you a genuine picture of what it feels like to be a spy. This is one…. an enthralling war story.”
—The Daily Express
“Macintyre tells Chapman’s tale in a perfect pitch: with the Boys’ Own thrills of Rider Haggard, the verve of George MacDonald Fraser and Carl Hiassen’s mordant humor. . . . Hugely entertaining.”
—The [London] Observer
“If Ben Macintyre had presented this story as a novel, it would have been denounced as far too unlikely: yet every word of it is true. Moreover he has that enviable gift, the inability to write a dull sentence. An enthralling book results from the opening up of once deadly secret files.”
“Splendidly vivid. . . . There are endless delightful twists to the tale.”
—Max Hastings, The [London] Sunday Times
“Ben Macintyre's rollicking, thriller-paced account…is a Boy's Own adventure par excellence and a gripping psychological case study of a man 'torn between patriotism and egotism.'”
“Macintyre succeeds in bringing Chapman vividly to life. It is unlikely that a more engaging study of espionage and deception will be published this year.”
"A preternaturally talented liar and pretty good safecracker becomes a “spy prodigy” working concurrently for Britain’s MI5 and the Nazi’s Abwehr.
London Times newsman and popular historian Macintyre (The Man Who Would be King: The First American in Afghanistan, 2004, etc) reports on the life and crimes of the late Eddie Chapman using interviews, newly released secret files and, cautiously, the English spy’s less-reliable memoirs. Just launching his criminal career when World War II began, the dashing adventurer was jailed in the Channel Island Jersey. Volunteering his services to the occupying Fatherland, he was taken to France and schooled in the dark arts of espionage and the wicked devices of spies by the likes of convivial headmaster Herr von Gröning and spymaster Oberleutnant Praetorius. Then the new German agent signed a formal espionage contract (under which his expected rewards were to be subjected to income tax). Dropped in England’s green and pleasant land to commit sabotage, he instead reported directly to His Majesty’s secret service. There they called their man 'Agent ZigZag.' The Germans had named him “Fritzchen.” Little Fritz, with the help of a magician, fooled his Nazi handlers into believing he had wrecked an aircraft factory. After a crafty return to Germany, he made another parachute drop home to report on an anti-sub device and the accuracy of the new V-1 flying bomb. The energetic adventurer from a lower stratum of British society was being run by Oxbridge gentlemen and by aristocrats of Deutschland at the same time. Or perhaps he was running them. Adorning his exploits were several beautiful women and an Iron Cross. It is a remarkable cloak-and-dagger procedural and a fine tale of unusual wartime employment….
One of the great true spy stories of World War II, vividly rendered."
From the Hardcover edition.
About the Author
BEN MACINTYRE is a writer-at-large for The Times of London and the bestselling author of A Spy Among Friends, Double Cross, Operation Mincemeat, Agent Zigzag, The Napoleon of Crime, and Forgotten Fatherland, among other books. Macintyre has also written and presented BBC documentaries of the wartime espionage trilogy.
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Eddie was a British citizen, rough Soho neighborhood criminal and safecracker. His capture and imprisonment on the British isle of Jersey coincided with the Nazi takeover of Jersey. Not wanting to spend his time time a Nazi jail he offered his explosives and criminal expertise to the Nazis. They took him up on it and after training, sent him to Britian to commit sabotage. He was promptly captured.
Not wanting to spend his time in a British jail, he offered his spy services to MI5. He had just been trained as a Nazi spy and had loads of information. The Brits took him up on the offer. He was then trained in British spy techniques (while regularly sending messages back to his German handlers).
The whole story is a romp through the double agent spy system during WW II. The fate of Eddie/Fritz/Zigzag is for the reader to discover. I highly recommend this book.
The book is a good example of a Boys' Own Paper adventure (with added sex). Macintyre tries his best to unravel the twists in Chapman's character, but the spy remains just too twisty. However, he does a good job with the supporting players -- Chapman's British and German spymasters, a collection of eccentrics, like the enthusiastic Nazi who was hipped on English folk dancing. Macintyre also has worked hard to separate Chapman's version of things from what actually happened -- Chapman, to put it kindly, liked to embroider. Amazon offers the Kindle edition at a very low price, and it gives good value for the money, since one can reread it as one rereads a spy thriller. This thriller just happens to be true.
get away with things others always get punished for. This author has done his homework and provides detils that are almost too much to believe, but they obviously are true. Chapman was just smart enough as a criminal to fool the best minds of the German intelligence community, and the Brits too. He was only finally beaten by a snobbish Brit who did nothing anywhere near as brave as Chapman during his wartime service. The book is great reading and at times the reader will start to feel that he is being put upon only to once again start believing what he is reading. Finally I would like to have known what happened to the various girl friends following the war and who now owns the Iron Cross awarded to Chapman. A photo of that would have been nic. Good read though.
I grew up hearing the anecdotal stories of war from my father and uncles, all of which served in WWII. As a kid I was riveted by the real life tales they had to share sitting around after a family meal. I have read quite a few non fiction books about divergent aspects of WWII many of which are heavy with details, seeming like a straight documentary. They are intriguing because they are history. This book is as insightful as any I have yet read in revealing the details of, and shedding light on the inner workings of, the historical events described, and yet was thoroughly entertaining at the same time. If you are a WWII aficionado you need to read this one.