Agent Zigzag: A True Story of Nazi Espionage, Love, and Betrayal
Prices for book: Agent Zigzag: A True Story of Nazi Espionage, Love, and Betrayal
Book ISBN: 9780307353405
Author(s): Ben Macintyre
Document type: Trade Cloth
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I've just literally finished this book 5 minutes ago and my first thought was to put a rave review on amazon.com.
What's amazing to me is that having read many books on WWII, this is the first time I've ever read about this double agent. I suppose the Military Secrets act had something to do with it, but surely that's run out after all this time. Possibility the "notoriety" of the subject had something to do with it too.
Here's my rundown of it:
1) The story. The exploits of this man is just absolutely amazing. Not amazing in the derring do exploits a la James Bond, but just amazing in how he pulled it off and his experiences as a whole. I mean that he never had to punch out 5 sentries, stick a bomb under a general's car and then jump off a bridge to escape, but just what he did in the war. Sitting in a comfy chair it's hard to realize in those days how dangerous all of it was. He could have been hauled off for a little fingernail pulling from both sides. I won't summarize the story, which you can get from wiki, but it read like a well written novel.
2) The writing. I think Ben MacIntyre did a great job. The book was easy to read, easy to follow and kept my interest. For a few hours this week, he brought me back into 40's Britain. And I think he did a good job of presenting Chapman, more than that I think he did a fair and unbiased job of presenting Chapman, which was more important. He didn't idolize Chapman, nor did he throw him to the dogs. You got the good with the bad and no punches pulled.
3) Summary. If you are a WWII buff at all, or any kind of WWII spy buff, you need to read this book. Here and there I'd read about the hapless German agents in Britain, but this is really the first British agent I'd read about. A must buy for me, a 10/10. Tom Hanks is supposed to do a film on it, I look forward to it.
John B. Goode (Amazon.com)
excellent true story
One of the best true story accounts I've ever read. Eddie Chapman led an incredible life during the WWII years.
P. Walz (Amazon.com)
The Artful dodger
What never fails to amaze me about reading about real-life spies is the sophistication of the spies given the time period. True, World War II was the cutting edge of modern history, with electronics and radar communications being employed. But this is the story of Eddie Chapman, who was one of the boldest, bravest and cleverest spies who has ever graced the double-agent ring.
Mr. Chapman was not one who aspired to higher ideals. He was a callous cad who was rescued out of prison and trained by the Brits because he would be expendable. He was put through a battery of tests determining his amorality. He "passed"
But he left a trail of broken hearts in his wake. Women for him were to be used and discarded, and the only true love of his life was a fellow double agent who was likely as stone-hearted as he was.
Still, Mr. Chapman overcame his moral defects to become a real life hero who saved countless lives posing as a spy for the Germans, but having the British empire at heart.
Beyond looking at Mr Chapman's flawed character, this book portrays a fascinating snapshot of the times, into the German psyche, and to the hit and run tactics of the British. While the German army built a fierce army machine, it had a vulnerable underbelly, which the English recognized, and exploited. Mr. Chapman, although performing perhaps what G-d had designed him to, was England's vehicle to get at the German's.
To his credit, this he did.
Scott A. Kallick (Amazon.com)
Amazing True Spy Tale
"Agent Zigzag" was one of the most enthralling spy stories I have read in a long time. A warning, though: once you start it, you may find it difficult to put down.
Those who denigrate Eddie Chapman's accomplishments as a double agent against the Nazis and his "comfortable" lifestyle should consider this. He faced almost unimaginable risks on a daily basis. All it would take was one slip, one betrayal by someone who knew his true identity, and he would have faced hideous torture by the Gestapo and a lonely death. Once he turned double agent, he could have stayed in Britain, where he was safe. Yet he volunteered to return to Nazi-occupied Europe, to serve the cause of freedom.
What made him do it? What turned this erstwhile con man and crook into one of the most successful British double agents of all time? Though we can never know for sure, Ben Macintyre does a great job of uncovering the man's deeper motivations. First and foremost, Chapman was a man of action, who craved thrills. He would never have been satisfied with an ordinary, mundane existence in a 9-to-5 job. This may have been part of what drove him into crime in the first place. Second, there was probably a less-than-savory aspect of his character, that delighted in fooling the Germans who thought they were his friends, and in taking money from both sides. But this was redeemed, somewhat, by another, more unexpected character trait: a true love of his country and a desire to be useful in helping to win the war.
It has been objected that Chapman didn't accomplish that much. It wasn't from lack of motivation. Though he volunteered to assasinate Hitler, the British secret service didn't take him up on the offer. His career was cut short at the end of the war by a priggish handler who disdained his criminal past. But what he did accomplish was significant: he passed on false information to the Abwehr, provided British intelligence with information on German espionage techniques and activities, faked incidents of sabotage to reassure his German handlers, and diverted Germany's limited spying resources into investigating a fake mirror world.
The best thing about the tale, though, is not so much Chapman's accomplishments, but the way it is told. Macintyre paints with vivid colors the British and German spies who carefully maneuvered Chapman like a piece on a chessboard. He describes Chapman's narrow escapes with nail-biting clarity. The prose is worthy of a Le Carre novel; it just carries you along through the story. If I have one complaint, perhaps, it is how abruptly the story ends--but that in itself is a sort of novelistic device, for it is ironic how British intelligence, having benefitted so much from Chapman's services during the war, simply dumped him near its end. One might say he had his revenge, using his service to Britain numerous times after the war to escape punishment for ongoing criminal behavior. But Chapman is no cardboard criminal--as Macintyre portrays him, there is always something much more than one-dimensional about the man.
H. F. Gibbard (Amazon.com)
compelling story fast read
My dad handed me this book the other night saying "I think you will enjoy this book, I did." He was so right. I could not put it down. Not only a great story but also a wonderful window into WW2 history. Read it!
J. Levinger (Amazon.com)
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