An amazing real life history of the most notorious British double agent of World War II, Eddie Chapman a.k.a Agent Zigzag Well written and just as good to read as any fictional espionage story I really enjoyed to read about the amazing exploits of Eddie Chapman! Quote that says it all:“War, briefly, brought out in Chapman an obstinate conscience His vices were as extreme as his virtues, and to the end of his life it was never clear whether he was on the side of the angels or the devils, whether he deceived the deceivers or whether he had made a pact with his German spymaster He died of heart failure in 1997 at the age of eightythree: he may have ascended heavenwards, or perhaps he headed in the opposite direction He is probably zigzagging still.” One of those nonfiction books that would not be believable as fiction, this is the story of Eddie Chapman, a criminal who became one of Britain's best double agents He was a hero using the traits that made him so successful a rogue and scoundrel Trained by the Third Reich in occupied France to parachute into his home country to blow up a warplane factory, Chapman instead contacted MI5, the British Secret Service For the rest of the war he worked for Britain, traveling across Europe spreading disinformation while never losing track of which lies he told Even operating under the restrictions of wartime espionage he carried on a full love life, leaving a trail of conquests throughout the Continent By war's end, he had earned not only a pardon from the British government for his past crimes but the Nazi Iron Cross as well.Since Chapman was barred from writing his memoirs (am I the only one who regrets that book does not exist?), Ben Macintyre's book works as a wonderfully entertaining substitute Using files declassified after Chapman's death, he relates the one of the most entertaining stories of World War II, one that even people who do not read spy novels or war stories will enjoy. Agent Zigzag is my first book by Ben Macintyre, but I am curious to readby him He has the ability to make a nonfiction account read like an engaging novel The story of Eddie Chapman, spy and double agent during the Second World War was new to me, and it held my attention from start to finish Recommended!Findreviews and bookish fun at If you're looking for an evenhanded 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 world of pimps and racecourse touts, pickpockets and con artists; late nights at Smokey Joe's and early champagne breakfasts at Quaglino's." Much like my personal favorite and the world's greatest secret agent (albeit fictional), Sterling Archer (codename: Duchess), Eddie's silver tongue had a way of getting him out of quagmires and back into the good graces of those who he'd wronged in the past Unfortunately, the jig was up, and he landed himself in jail on Jersey Island (almost as bad as being imprisoned on the Jersey Shore, but with far less hair gel and fake tanning cream) I'll skip a lot of important information here and just tell you he ends up being recruited/courted as an agent for the Abwehr (one of those dastardly Nazi intelligence agencies) As a smoothtalking con man who has exhibited few moral compunctions even as a thief, he was a pretty great candidate to become a British spy (but for the Germans so German spy?) I mean everyone knows that, as a spy: So he luftwaffles or 99 red luftbaloons himself into Britain where he promptly double crosses (or triple crosses it's hard to follow) the Germans and cozies up with MI5 where he has to deal with quite a crew, including Robin "TinEye" Stephens who rocks a monocle like nobody's business There's also Jasper Maskelyne, a magician in the employ of MI5 who helps them engineer an illusion (yes, they actually do refer to it as such, so Gob Bluth can rest easy) to make it look like ZigZag is carrying out his subterfuge as promised to his Nazi pals The thing about Eddie Chapman was that he basically thrived in the worst of circumstances He liked to keep things loose and (another shoutout to Archer) couldn't necessarily be relied upon to keep his mouth shut when it came to being a secret agent, especially when ladies were involved Really, he was kind of a loose canon unless, of course, he wasn't That's the thing about being a great double agent, it has to be hard for people to get a pulse on you That being said, it was probably a good call on the part of MI5 to try to sever ties In the end, though, it's undeniable that his life made one heck of an interesting story. Rating Clarification: 3.5 StarsWhile 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 conman, 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 James).An engaging tale of a man at odds with his loyalties, a thief who really didn't care about the money he stole but about the excitment involved in stealing it, and a lover who loved many women, but couldn't stay true to one Chapman was admired by almost everyone in British intelligence who came into contact with his unorthodox ways, and was the only British citizen to receive the German Iron Cross for services rendered to the Fatherland (thankfully Hitler and Co didn't realize those services were actually rendered to British intelligence).This story uncovers some pretty tricksey deceptions played out by Chapman and MI5 during WWII Most thrilling of all, I learned that a Norwegian invented the paper clip Cool, dat. The story is a good one but didn't care for the writing style A struggle to finish Eddie Chapman: rogue, criminal, confidence trickster, hero to both sides and betrayer of all At the start of the Second World War, Chapman was recruited by the German Secret Service He was a highly prized Nazi agent He was also a secret spy for Britain, alias Agent Zigzag Agent Zigzag is the untold story of Britain's most extraordinary wartime double agent Genuinely courageous, able to withstand withering interrogations from both sides, Chapman was a dashing, charming and fiercely intelligent man whose talents led to a single end: breaking the rules He wore loud suits, drove fast cars, and had a woman in every port Yet, at the same time he was, in his own way, loyal to his lover and their child This was a man who courted contradictions as much as he courted adventure 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 ended, and the other began In 1943, Colonel Tim Stephens of MI5 said of the story of Chapman: 'In fiction it would be rejected as improbable.' MI5 have only just released the material on Chapman, and Macintyre has full access to all of Chapman's manuscripts, letters and photographs What emerges from this trove is an exhilarating true story of loyalty and betrayal, courage and cowardice, a crook who was also a hero It is one of the most gripping untold stories of the Second World War. 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 due to their commitment to chronological order and prosaic detail Another issue with this book was that I found Eddie Chapman – the spy under consideration – unattractive, boring and predictable He totally failed to capture my imagination or enthusiasm.I find it embarrassing to dislike a book that so many others have relished You may well be one of the people for whom this is a great read. 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 WWII They came up with creative schemes (even employing a professional magician to aid in illusions) that consistently mislead the Germans England's unit was structured differently from Germany's and this made for some interesting dynamics that I don't want to get into here It would be a spoiler That they cracked the Enigma code early in the war, while benefiting from being able to read all German coded messages sent, and that Germany was never aware the code was cracked speaks volumes Pretty slick in my opinion. 15/10 A fascinating tale of British and German espionage during WWII The quote from John Le Carre on the front cover, describing the book as"Superb Meticulously researched, splendidly told, immensely entertaining and often very moving."is absolutely correct I did find the story 'moving', but mostly only in that the treatment of Chapman by his second handler, after Reed was sent to France, was atrocious and mostly inspired by what I see as Ryde's jealousy over Chapman's success with women and the importance of his role in the British war effort compared with Ryde's own.If you want to read the true stories of the previously classified details of the exploits of MI5 agents and spies during WWII then Ben Macintyre is the author to go to This is the second of his books that I've read, and I have pretty much every other one on my to read list.