History in Review
The Incredible Wartime Exploits of Double Agent Eddie Chapman.
By Nicholas Booth.
(Arcade Publishing; Reprint Edition: 2008. Pg. 386.)
Reviewed by Auggie Moore - February 25, 2008
Eddie Chapman was one of those shadowy figures from World War II that most people never heard of. For those that knew of Chapman, or have heard about his deeds, there was always a tinge of doubt about just how much of what they were hearing was really true. In ZigZag, Nicholas Booth separates the truth from the fantasy and paints a gripping and authoritative portrait of one of the most engaging and astounding double agents of World War II.
Gleaning evidence from recently unsealed MI5 files, interviews with Chapman's wife, friends, and co-workers, as well as other archival and documentary resources, Booth has crafted a detailed overview of Chapman's life and wartime deeds. When I first set out to review this book, I had simply meant to give it a quick once over and then set the book aside until I had time to properly read it. As events turned out - I made time right then and there. From the very first page Booth pulled me into Chapman's world and did not let me go until I had read his entire story!
Chapman was a rogue who was charming, attractive, and had a knack for safe-cracking and thinking on his feet. In short, he was a very talented con-man, a skill that saved his life many times during the War. During World War II, Chapman, codenamed Agent ZIGZAG, was a spy for the Nazi Reich as well as an MI5 agent who was sent behind enemy lines to spy for the British. During his career as a double agent he was parachuted into Britain, twice, by the Nazis, and he was eventually awarded the Iron Cross. The British never gave him any awards, despite his having valiantly tread a very thin line working within the heart of the Nazi machine ferreting out secrets for his British handlers.
In this unforgettable biography, Booth traces Chapman's start as a petty thief to super-spy and he details how Chapman managed to fool the German's into thinking that he was a solid Nazi agent when in fact he was working for the British all along. In addition, Booth details how Chapman was treated by his class-conscious fellow agents in MI5 as well as his life after the war.
In ZigZag, Booth introduces the reader to a little known (mostly due to the Official Secrets Act) aspect of World War II espionage, and to an incredible man whose exploits could well pass for fiction if they were not so well documented and verified. Best of all, Booth writes with a gripping narrative style that reads like a work of fiction rather than a dower, academic biography. If you have an interest in the history of espionage, World War II, the life of Eddie Chapman, are a fan of great biographies, or are simply looking for an exciting book to read - this is the book for you!
Roosevelt and Churchill: Men of Secrets, by David Stafford.
Stafford has penned a compelling and thought-provoking look at Roosevelt and Chruchill, and the intelligence agencies at their disposal during World War II.
Crusade in Europe, by Dwight D. Eisenhower.
In this informative book, Eisenhower supplies an insider's look at America's role in Europe during World War II, as seen through the eyes of the man who commanded the Allied Forces.
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