Monday, September 1, 2008

Stranger Than Fiction

If truth is not always stranger than fiction, it is on occasion more interesting. Such is the case with Agent Zigzag by Ben Macintyre, the true story of perhaps the greatest spy ever known. Macintyre chronicles the adventures of Eddie Chapman, a gentleman thief, masterful liar, serial womanizer, and shameless pickpocket who is impossible not to like. A young English thief imprisoned in France, Chapman makes a deal with German occupiers during World War II to serve as an agent. Once in England, he counteroffers his services to British MI5 as a double agent.

Though Chapman often seemed devoted to persons and sincere about his actions, it was impossible to predict his behavior or to determine his loyalties. It's never clear whether he worked as a double agent for the money, out of patriotism, or simply for the thrill of it. In addition to his adventures, Chapman's affairs and friendships are explored in great detail, and none is more captivating than his deep friendship with his German handler.

It's enlightening to learn about the real life of a secret agent and the WWII intrigues, but Chapman's enigmatic personality is the real fascination here. I've never read a more exciting spy story with a more amusingly inexplicable protagonist. The James Bond types are so utterly bland by comparison.

No comments: