Betty Farmer caught a last glimpse of Eddie Chapman sprinting off down the beach with two overcoated men in pursuit. Eddie Chapman: the nefarious Agent Zigzag. Eddie Chapman was a petty thief...well...maybe a bit more. When World War Two starts Chapman is in jail on Jersey Island. Chapman, a bright boy, figured out exactly what the Germans wanted. Part of the deal was if Chapman did what he was supposed to do Faramus would be kept safe. Chapman does what he does best and makes friends with the Germans. The Germans give Chapman an account of money that he can draw on any time he becomes low on funds. Von Groning was thrilled every time Chapman needed money because he always drew off more than what Chapman asked for and pocketed the difference. After the war von Groning is invited to the wedding of Chapmans daughter. He is parachuted into Britain by the Germans and instantly turns himself over to the British Government. There are several British agents that work with Chapman, but Im only going to point out two of them. Both sides knew the direction of the war may determine who Eddie would work for on the long game. He pulled off some amazing capers for both sides of the war effort, but the final contribution that he made for London was radioing the Germans that the V-2 rockets were hitting too far North and to change their coordinates that placed those bombs in the Southern part of London, less densely populated area, saving thousands of lives. Now you will have to read the book to make your own determination about Eddie Chapman. Eddie did quite well for himself after the war. Ben MacIntyre decided to write this book after most of the material related to Chapman was declassified. After the war he was determined to find Betty Farmer the woman he left at the restaurant as he so dramatically broke through a glass window to escape arrest.
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. 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.
Agent Zigzag is my first book by Ben Macintyre, but I am curious to read more by him.
For the rest of the war he worked for Britain, traveling across Europe spreading disinformation while never losing track of which lies he told.
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. 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.
One good thing has emerged from this failed reading. Another issue with this book was that I found Eddie Chapman the spy under consideration unattractive, boring and predictable.
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. 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.
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. There was a 1966 movie Triple Cross, but from all accounts it was so censored by the Official Secrets Act and rewritten as to be merely "inspired by," history and truly owes more to James Bond than Eddie Chapman (though both Ian Fleming and the inspiration for his fictional tech-geek "Q" do appear in the book).
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.