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ZigZag by Nicholas Booth

Pub Date:

 

ZigZag
The Incredible Wartime Exploits of Double Agent Eddie Chapman
Nicholas Booth

Arcade
9/29/07
Hardcover/386 pages
ISBN: 1559708603
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". . . a dramatic espionage biography filled with tension."

Armed with recently released secret documents, journalist Nicholas Booth sorts out in ZigZag the sensational life of double agent Eddie Chapman. The charismatic Chapman, who crisscrossed between the British (M15) and German (Abwehr) military intelligence during World War II, met with Churchill and was close enough to assassinate Hitler.

Chapman, a survival genius, was never trusted by either side and was repeatedly interrogated by both sides. The British feared he would go underground (“a criminal always a criminal”) while the Germans kept him under constant surveillance.

When the Third Reich occupied the Channel Islands, Chapman was serving time in a Jersey jail for robbery and a daring escape from jail. The Germans, desperately in need for English-speaking spies, found Chapman, who also spoke German, the perfect candidate. When asked what motivated him – money or hatred – Eddie instantly replied, “money.” But he then added he also hated police and prison. Chapman also had experience with the use of explosives. Documents reveal Chapman agreed to become a saboteur to avoid completing his prison term and to find a way to return to the British mainland.

While in France he prepared for his first assignment. He was to blow up England’s de Havilland aircraft factory and destroy the “mosquito bombers” that flew as fast as a fighter plane. In the complicated world of strategic deception, the British with Chapman’s help faked the bombing, and Chapman returned to Germany a hero.

Chapman continued to supply vital military information to the British, including decisive information on the V2 German bombs. Many Allied lives were saved as a result. Yet with all his endeavors, the British never acknowledged him as a hero or his right to a military pension.

Booth exposes Chapman’s bizarre personality — his ability to judge character, addiction to adventure and lust for a carefree life with friends. Chapman also suffered bouts of depression according to his wife, Betty Farmer, who financially supported him and tolerated his many affairs.

The story with all its complicated details is easy to follow because Booth uses Chapman’s own voice collected from recorded conversations and interrogation files along with interviews with his widow. Why was Chapman so loved by the Germans yet so distrusted by the British? For instance, after the war Chapman’s German handler was a guest at his daughter’s wedding. This dramatic espionage biography brims with tension.

Reviewer: Kate Padilla