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 in occupied France, Chapman was parachuted into Britain with a revolver, a wireless, and a cyanide pill, with orders from the Abwehr to blow up an airplane factory. Instead, he contacted MI5, the British Secret Service. For the next four years, Chapman worked as a double agent, a lone British spy at the heart of the German Secret Service who at one time volunteered to assassinate Hitler for his countrymen. Crisscrossing Europe under different names, all the while weaving plans, spreading disinformation, and, miraculously, keeping his stories straight under intense interrogation, he even managed to gain some profit and seduce beautiful women along the way.
The Nazis feted Chapman as a hero and awarded him the Iron Cross. In Britain, he was pardoned for his crimes, becoming the only wartime agent to be thus rewarded. Both countries provided for the mother of his child and his mistress. Sixty years after the end of the war, and ten years after Chapman's death, MI5 has now declassified all of Chapman's files, releasing more than 1,800 pages of top secret material and allowing the full story of Agent Zigzag to be told for the first time.
A gripping story of loyalty, love, and treachery, Agent Zigzag offers a unique glimpse into the psychology of espionage, with its thin and shifting line between fidelity and betrayal.
From the Hardcover edition.
London Times associate editor Macintyre (The Man Who Would Be King) adroitly dissects the enigmatic World War II British double agent Eddie Chapman in this intriguing and balanced biography. Giving little thought to the morality of his decision, Chapman offered to work as a spy for the Germans in 1940 after his release from an English prison in the Channel Islands, then occupied by the Germans. After undergoing German military intelligence training, Chapman parachuted into England in December 1942 with instructions to sabotage a De Havilland aircraft factory, but he surrendered after landing safely. Doubled by MI5 (the security service responsible for counterespionage), Chapman was used to feed vital disinformation to the enemy and was one of the few double agents to delude their German handlers until the end of the war. Meticulously researched--relying extensively on recently released wartime files of Britain's Secret Intelligence Service--Macintyre's biography often reads like a spy thriller. In the end, the author concludes that Chapman repeatedly risked his life... [and] provided invaluable intelligence, but it was never clear whether he was on the side of the angels or the devils. Of the two Zigzag biographies this fall (the other, by Nicholas Booth, is reviewed below), this is clearly superior. (Oct. 9)
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September 04, 2007
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