Agent Zigzag
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Agent Zigzag

3.99 of 5 stars 3.99  ·  rating details  ·  4,307 ratings  ·  660 reviews
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 i...more
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Published September 4th 2007 by Harmony (first published 2007)
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Jeffrey Keeten
”War was coming, everyone said so, but the dining room of the Hotel de la Plage was a place of pure peace that sunny Sunday. Beyond the golden beach, the waves flickered among a scatter of tiny islands, as Eddie and Betty ate trifle off plates with smart blue crests. Eddie was halfway through telling another funny story when he froze. A group of men in overcoats and brown hats had entered the restaurant and one was now in urgent conversations with the headwaiter. Before Betty could speak, Eddie...more
Mara
If you're looking for an even-handed recounting and reflections on this book, you should probably check out Jeffrey Keeten's stellar review (it has lots of pictures and everything). However, if you're looking for my favorite moments of skullduggery(along with the occasional pop culture parallel), then you're in the right spot.

Eddie Chapman (codename: ZigZag) was, among other things, the head of the "Jelly Gang" (they used gelignite to break into safes), a bit of a lady's man living in "the worl...more
Hannah
Rating Clarification: 3.5 Stars

While not as interesting a read as Macintyre's Operation Mincemeat: How a Dead Man and a Bizarre Plan Fooled the Nazis and Assured an Allied Victory, the true story of double agent Eddie Chapman still had its moments. Chapman was a thief, a con-man, a ladies man (with a girl in every port, so to speak) and a hustler.

I liked him immensely.

What a charming rogue. The kind of guy you'd like to have drinks with, but not the kind you'd "take home to mother" (thanks, Rick...more
Chuck
This is a splendid biography of Eddie Chapman, who went from small-time criminal to double-agent for the British during World War II while never fully abandoning his anti-establishment urges. Chapman performed many wartime feats of derring-do, and although his main allegiance appeared to lie with the Allies, he was was also trusted and rewarded by the German Abwehr; after the war, he even invited one of his principal German contacts to attend his daughter's wedding. This multi-facted and multi-t...more
Harold
Quite an adventure! Eddie Chapman was charming, handsome, smart, cunning and manipulative and able to play both ends against the middle. To this day no one is sure how he really played the game, although Great Britain benefited the most from Eddie's talents....that is with the exception of Eddie himself.

A word should be said about Britain's MI5 unit. After reading this book and Operation Mincemeat by the same author, it would appear that Great Britain had the best Military Intelligence unit in W...more
Alex
Really excellent story, would have given it three stars if Chapman's life weren't so interesting because I think the author sort of dumbed it down at points and he could have gone into more detail on the backgrounds of the individuals involved, also the organization of the information got a little convoluted at times. I understand that he didn't want to do a full backstory every time a new person came into play, but inserting several chapters between name and history meant at times I was flippin...more
Caroline
Oh dear. One third of my way through Agent Zigzag, and I am going to have to give up reading it. I cannot bear the 'And this happened, and then this happened, and then this happened' Boys’ Own stodge a minute longer. I have indigestion and a headache.

One good thing has emerged from this failed reading. I realise I don’t much like biographies and autobiographies. There have been a couple that really shone for me, but it’s a genre I often find myself struggling with. I find them plodding – perhaps...more
Merry Bones
John le Carre perfectly described this book, "Superb. Meticulously researched, splendidly told, immensely entertaining, and often very moving." I'll just add that this is one helluva book. It made me laugh, it broke my heart and it blew my mind away. Ben Macintyre is the kind of storyteller that I can only dream of becoming. Zigzag is, by himself a highly entertaining and compelling character, but he truly came alive for me with this book. And although a complicated story that was undoubtedly ex...more
Zach
I really want to rate this book 3 stars, but it was a lot of fun to read. It's not the best writing and the amount of detail is cumbersome at times, but it moves briskly. The plot is instantly intriguing: Eddie Chapman, a small-time crook, is jailed by the English and enslaved by the Nazis when they conquer the Channel Islands. Because of his safe-cracking and explosives experience, he offers to serve as a spy for the Germans. In due time, his request is honored, and he begins training in the Fr...more
Suzanne Stroh
A total page turner that bookends my top shelf. How the world of spycraft really works. And how funny it is, when it's not rabidly violent or psychopathological.

The author was blessed with a priceless true story, but that's only the beginning. I consider this the best history of WWII clandestine activities ever written, and quite possibly the best work of nonfiction I've ever read. Blindingly talented with superb timing and good taste, Ben Macintyre leads you from wartime Britain to France to No...more
Tony
AGENT ZIGZAG: A True Story of Nazi Espionage, Love, and Betrayal. (2007). Ben Macintyre. ****.
This is the extremely well-written story about a double agent working for England during the Second World War. His code name was Zigzag, although his real name was Eddie Chapman; although he used a variety of aliases during his career. Chapman was recruited and trained by the Nazis to work for them. When he was out of spy school, and made his first trip to England – parachuting in to a secluded spot –...more
Christopher
On my way to work, a co-worker asked me what I was reading so avidly. I replied "Agent ZigZag. It's about a British bank robber who is stuck in WWII occupied Europe, volunteers to be a spy for the Germans, parachutes into Britain and immediately calls MI5 to volunteer to work for them instead."

"So fiction then." my co-worker replied.

"No way, they can't write fiction this absurd. It'd never get published." (in a later chapter, an MI5 interrogator wrote almost that same line into Eddie Chapman's f...more
Regina Mclaughlin
High adventure, reading the chronicles of a double agent during WWII. Our hero--can you call him that?-- is prone to cracking safes, jumping through windows, manipulating friends and seducing women by the busload. Did I mention, he also carries the fates of both Germany and Britain on his back.

Expect a wildly careening, ribald series of chase scenes, foxy schemes, somber imprisonments, and explosions galore. Oh, and prepare to have your moral and imaginative limits stretched and then stretched...more
Jack Cheng
A book that sports the blurb "The best book ever written" (Alex Beam, Boston Globe) is looking for a smackdown.

Unless.... it's really very good.

Agent Zigzag tells the tale of Eddie Chapman, bank robber and ladies man, who finds his Channel Island prison suddenly run by an occupying German army. He offers to spy for the Nazis, and then while training in occupied France, memorizes as much as he can so he can give enemy information to the Brits.

Chapman is an amazing character, as are his German and...more
Cynthia Haggard
Ben Macintyre’s AGENT ZIGZAG is a gripping account of a double-agent during World War Two, who must have been incredibly charming, because not only did he acquire three girlfriends waiting patiently for him in London, Oslo and the countryside of England, but he also managed to convince the German secret service that he was loyal to Hitler. Never once did he falter when closely questioned by various German officers. His courage and coolness are stunning when one considers what would have happened...more
Dean Kauffman
This was a book I read for the Arlington Va, Westover Library book group for the month of June, 2012. It is a nonfiction story of a British counterspy - who started working for the Germans but when sent to Britain to be a saboteur immediately contacts the British secret service to work as a counterspy. The full story was only released in the 2000's and the massive information that became available has been very skillfully used by this author. This book was liked by every member of the approximat...more
Ross
Having read more than 50 fictional spy novels, I am rather surprised that this is the first true story I have read of a real spy, and a double agent to boot. I might also count the Dreyfus affair, since that was a true story as well. But Major Dreyfus was wrongly convicted of being a spy, and since he was not in fact a real spy, I won't count it.
So we have here the true story of an amazing double agent who was a master confidence man, absolutely fearless, and a notorious womanizer. In short a ch...more
Becky
History like you wouldn't believe. Literally, its unbelievable. The most interesting part of this is probably the mystery that still surrounds Chapman, which side was he and his German handler really playing for? Or were they playing for any side, or just their own? I read this years ago, but I remember it lagging a bit in the middle since Chapman really isn't that great of a guy (read: total ass) and being a bit frustrated with him. Still, a good read.
Jim Leffert
Eddie Chapman was a gentleman crook (from humble beginnings) in the 1930’s who ended up in prison on the Isle of Jersey when the Nazis occupied the island. He offered to work for the Nazis as a spy in England. They sent him to France, where he was thoroughly trained in the craft of espionage and sabotage by the Abwehr, the German Secret Service. Dropped in England, he immediately presented himself to the police and offered to serve as a double agent. Serving at various points on the Continent an...more
Gerry
Colonel Robin 'Tin Eye' Stephens, one of Eddie Chapman's interrogators, said, 'Fiction has not, and probably never will, produce an espionage story to rival in fascination and improbability the true story of Edward Chapman, whom only war could invest with virtue, and that only for its duration.'

Never a truer word has been written or spoken for Chapman's exploits for both the Germans and the British very nearly defy belief. How he held it all together and lied his way through World War II as a do...more
David
Everyone who believes in conspiracy theories is a bonehead. If you agree, and like (as I do) to read things which confirm your self-satisfied preconceptions, then this book is for you. Using a rare conspiracy that actually worked as a frame, it shows how difficult it is to actually hold a conspiracy together, owing to the unfortunate human tendency to quarrel, get drunk, talk too much, cut corners, pinch pennies, ignore details, lose sight of the main aim, and so forth.

Other reviewers have comp...more
Crossett  Library
Reviewed by Jared:
Having just read the fiction novel "Eye of the Needle" which dealt with espionage and counterespionage during World War II, it was an interesting contrast to read "Agent Zigzag" which dealt with the same from a non-fiction standpoint. And Mark Twain was correct, truth IS stranger than fiction. If Agent Zigzag was a fiction novel, I would've characterized it as too outlandish to be believable. Agent Zigzag (aka Eddie Chapman) was a British double agent who made repeated trips in...more
Regina Lindsey
Who said non-fiction can't be fun? I read a lot of non-fiction and actually enjoy the minutiae of political philosophy, histoirical context, etc. But, everyone once in a while it is refreshing to read the personal tales of those who lived the moment. Macintyre's account of Eddie Chapman: English crook turned German spy-turned British Intel agent does just that, and it is deliciously fun to read!

"Fiction has not, and probably never will, produce an espionage story to rival in fascination and impr...more
Ali
One December night in 1942, a Nazi parachutist landed in a Cambridgeshire field. His mission: to sabotage the British war effort. His name was Eddie Chapman, but he would shortly become MI5's Agent Zigzag. Dashing and louche, courageous and unpredictable, the traitor was a patriot inside, and the villain a hero. The problem for Chapman, his many lovers and his spymasters was knowing who he was. Ben Macintyre weaves together diaries, letters, photographs, memories and top-secret MI5 files to crea...more
Tom
What an amazing story! It is unbelievable to me how some people misstep thier way into being a part of history. The things this guy did for the Allied effort is nothing short of heroic. Yes, he was a lier, a thief and probably a little mentally unstable. But, as MacIntyre says at one point, the thief and the spy really have a lot of skills and characteristics in common.

I love how we never really find out where Chapman's loyalty lies; money, country or simply the excitement of danger. The implica...more
Huw Rhys
What a whirlwind, entertaining, captivating read - and this is a factual, historical tome, in theory!

Yet again, Ben Macintyre reveals his ultra diligent research skills as he brings us the story of Eddie Chapaman, a disaffected northern crook who spies for the Nazis in WW2, wins the Iron Cross - and yet was making a massive contribution to the Allies' war effort all along by acting, in reality, as a double agent.

Although there are fleeting references to Ian Fleming, who was part of the British S...more
J.
Dec 23, 2008 J. rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: ... confidence gamers ...
This is a good solid account of a very intriguing history. Actual story of intel operations in wartorn Europe ... deception, deals, camouflage, disinformation, scams, trickery ... spymasters and double agents galore. And with the protagonist a convicted felon, every trick has a few extra layers.

The tiniest details tell a lot : when they wanted to convince the other side that a certain secret chunk of war technology was available, deadly and miniaturized for easy concealment, the British Secret...more
James Millikan
Agent Zigzag is an intriguing and true story of a British double agent during World War II. This biography of Eddie Chapman (Zigzag) is masterfully told by Macintyre, so much so that I often felt sharp pangs of empathy or laughed out loud as the story unfolded. Chapman is the epitome of a flawed hero, who draws upon his criminal past and general depravity to make great strides for M15 and the British war effort. In the worlds of Macintyre, paraphrasing one of Chapman's acquaintances, "Chapman wa...more
David Roberts
The book I read to research this post was Agent Zigzag by Ben Macintyre which is an excellent book which I bought from kindle. I have only read this book and Operation Mincemeat by Ben but I am very impressed by both which are very exciting true stories that happened during World War 2 and I daresay if any of the people involved in this story were still alive the Official Secrets Act would stop it from being published. The story is about an excon who had been using gelignite to rob shops and wen...more
Jenna
Interesting and enthusiastic description of a double-agent's (triple-agent's?) life during WWII. I was left with the impression, though, that Agent Zigzag didn't actually do much, though. He promises the Germans he'll blow up a factory and instead creates the illusion that he blew it up. He tells the British he'll try to blow something up on the Axis side and he falls in love instead. He gets plenty of information, which is obviously most spies' main intention. He deceives the Germans in a few k...more
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Espionage 1 10 Oct 01, 2013 06:59PM  
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Ben Macintyre is an author, historian and columnist writing for The Times newspaper. His columns range from current affairs to historical controversies.

In July 2006, Macintyre wrote an article in The Times entitled "How wiki-wiki can get sticky", criticising the limitations of Wikipedia. He cited the self-regulation system as inadequate when literally "anyone" could add supposed "facts" to Wikipe...more
More about Ben Macintyre...
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 A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal The Napoleon of Crime: The Life and Times of Adam Worth, Master Thief The Man Who Would Be King: The First American in Afghanistan

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“The policemen agreed they were living with a most peculiar fellow. One moment he was reading classical literature in the original French and quoting Tennyson, and the next he would be discussing the best way to blow up a train.” 7 likes
“Well you stick the dynamite in the keyhole and you don't damage the safe, only sometimes you put a little too much in and blow the safe door up, but other times you're lucky and the safe just comes open.
Thus the scion of a great banking dynasty learned how to rob a bank.”
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