By Stephen Pollard
June 16, 2007
There's a genre of biography which I love: the stories of minor figures who led fascinating lives. By far my favourite is Bernard Wasserstein's simply wonderful biography of Trebitsch Lincoln, which I urge you to read - it's a romp.
In similar vein is Ben Macintyre's biography of Agent Zigzag, Eddie Chapman, It's a fantastic story, very well told. The author has written an afterword for the paperback edition, and extract from which is in today's Times:
An elderly, refined female voice came on the telephone at The Times, and without giving her name declared: “He was an absolute shit, you know. The handsomest man I ever met. But a prize shit.” Then she rang off.
An acquaintance of Chapman’s, the journalist Peter Kinsley, wrote to The Times after Agent Zigzagwas serialised: “Eddie would have loved the publicity. His old friends said he should have worn a T-shirt emblazoned ‘I am a Spy for MI5’. The last time I met him he described how he had missed a fortune in ermine ( used in coronation robes) during a furs robbery, because he thought it was rabbit.
“He also said he successfully convinced a German au pair girl that he was a post office telephone engineer, and robbed the wall safe. He was also once visited by an income tax inspector, and produced a doctor’s certificate that he had a weak heart and could not be ‘caused stress’. Ten minutes later, he drove, in a Rolls-Royce, past the inspector waiting in the rain at a bus stop, and gave him a wave.”