This cinematic tale of World War II espionage is a one-man spy-versus-spy thriller—spying on behalf of both Britain and the Nazis was the same dashing rascal.
Eddie Chapman, born in a small English village in 1914, was known to his German intelligence handlers as “Little Fritz.” To his British MI5 controllers, he was “ZigZag,” and he was a fearless hero, a womanizing rogue and a thief. The cheeky fellow started his career as a safecracker pursued by Scotland Yard before he joined the Coldstream Guards. Then came the war and, fresh from a Parisian prison (where he enjoyed erotic assignations with female inmates), he was recruited for the Führer’s service. Under the supervision of a jolly spymaster, he learned how to parachute at night as well as the arcane arts of hidden writing, clandestine radio communication and explosive detonation. When he was dropped into the English countryside, however, he reported directly to His Majesty’s Secret Service. Because the Nazi’s Enigma code had been cracked, he or someone much like him was expected. As stipulated by a formal contract with the Abwehr, he was to demolish an aircraft factory. The destruction was cleverly faked by film studio artists, and back to the Germans went the double agent to much praise and further assignments. He was to sink a British freighter; he was to report on the effectiveness of the new buzz bombs. For false information, Little Fritz received the Iron Cross. In Berlin in 1944, he saw how the war was going and soon returned home and retired by MI5. Years later, the old English agent recalled meeting Hitler. After a botched attempt by others at a movie of his romantic exploits, ZigZag died peacefully in 1997. Booth offers a wonderful spy story based chiefly on Chapman’s memoirs, his widow’s recollections and, best of all, on files recently freed under Britain’s Official Secrets Act. (Chapman’s story is so good that a similar book, Agent ZigZag, by Ben Macintyre, will be published by Harmony Books in October 2007.)
A fascinating chronicle of a largely unappreciated detail of The War.