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Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Wayward Pines, Agent ZigZag, and Other Stuff

I've read and reviewed all 3 of the Wayward Pines novels ( my reviews here and here). The novels are weird and fascinating, although I prefer the first one.  I watched the first episode of the Wayward Pines new series and was surprised at how much the town and certain scenes matched my imagination from the book.  The characters don't fit my images, but the town is uncannily like my imagination.  The first episode is was the book which trickled out the information a little at a time.  You are curious and confused as the story slowly clarifies, bit by agonizing bit.  Before watching any more episodes, I want to wait until several more are released.  Has anyone else watched them?

While working on my various projects, I love watching K-dramas and series like The Black list, Grimm (waiting on new season), and Granite Flats.  During the day, I usually do the work that takes more thought, then at night I play with details.  I can embroider or hand quilt and watch my shows, but am unable to do anything like work on my clay figures or figuring out what to do next on my improvisational quilts-- so a little planning is required to have simple projects at night that I can do while watching my shows.  The quilted beads are mounting up.

Because I am unable to watch television (read Netflix and Drama Fever) without having something to do with my hands

I finished Agent ZigZag:  A True Story of Nazi Espionage, Love, and Betrayal by Ben MacIntyre, an  account of British triple agent Eddie Chapman during  WWII.  While I did not like it as much as MacInyre's Operation Mincemeat: How a Dead Man and a Bizarre Plan Fooled the Nazis and Assured an Allied Victory (reviewed here; gotta' love the titles), Agent ZigZag is a fascinating look at Britain's utilization of a handsome, brazen young criminal who was finally arrested and jailed on occupied Jersey, ironically, for one crime that he didn't commit.  Later transferred by the Nazis to a Paris prison, Chapman agreed to work for the Germans.  He was trained and eventually parachuted back into England where he immediately went to British authorities, told them what he'd learned, and offered to spy on the Germans.  Fearless and feckless, Chapman provided disinformation to the Nazi Abwehr, and the Germans so trusted this thief and con man that they awarded him the Iron Cross--now that is irony, indeed.

Certainly not an admirable man in many ways, Chapman nevertheless risked his life for his country and served it well during the war years.  The information MacIntyre reveals about some of the difficulties of running spies, double agents, and the outlandish triple agent named ZigZag is truly fascinating

MacIntyre's research is impeccable and his list of sources impressive.  

New York Times Notable Book of the Year
Washington Post Best Book of 2007
One of the Top 10 Best Books of 2007 (Entertainment Weekly)
New York Times Best of the Year Round-Up
New York Times Editors’ Choice

Purchased on Kindle.

WWII, Espionage.  2007.  Print version: 384 pages.

In the synchronicitous way of things, I've read two fiction books concerning WWII espionage in the last week.  

The Haigerloch Project is more interesting for its factual references than for the fictional characters and plot.  The information about the Manhatten Project, the attempts to discover how close the Germans were to producing their own atomic bomb, and the search for ways to derail its completion is a fictional plot informed by fact. 

I.B. Melchior, novelist, screenwriter, and film producer, served with the U.S. Counterintelligence Corps during WWII.  A decorated war hero, Melchior participated in the liberation of the Flossenburg concentration camp and the capture of a Werwolf unit in 1945, as well as other important missions.

I found the mention of individuals in the nonfiction Agent ZigZag and the fictional Haigerloch Project, even if they received little more than a few lines, especially interesting.  Most fascinating was Moe Berg, an American professional baseball player who graduated from Princeton and Columbia, spoke seven languages, and during the war, worked for the OSS special intelligence branch.  Parachuting behind enemy lines, he evaluated resistance groups and worked on Project AZUSA, moving across Europe interviewing European physicists and trying to determine how close the Germans were to achieving a bomb... among other things.  Berg is mentioned in both Agent ZigZag an in The Haigerloch Project.

I researched a number of things I wasn't familiar with:  ALSOS, Project Larson, Haigerloch and the German reactor, and more.  Melchior's bibliographic material contained, perhaps not surprisingly, many of the same sources as Ben MacIntyre's bibliography.  John Masterson's and William Pasher's WWII records also intrigue me.

NetGalley/Open Road Media

WWII/Espionage.  1978 and 2014.  Print version:  289 pages.

I'll get to my reviews of The Scent of Secrets and A Kind of Grief which are also connected with the theme of espionage.  And I was surprised that Granite Flats, the Netflix series, moved from what initially seemed like the adventures of three kids in a small Colorado town during the Cold War to a much darker theme of espionage during and after the war.  It includes elements of the Red Scare, blacklisting, and MK-Ultra.  From light-hearted to some shameful episodes in American history, the series is an odd one in both style and content--but fascinating.


  1. Quilted beads! What a brilliant idea! There are very pretty :)

    1. Thanks, Stefanie! The quilted beads are the brain storm of Virginia Gertenbach, and I love making them!

  2. I didn't know there was a television show being made of Wayward Pines. I haven't yet read the books. It'll be interesting to see how they match up to the books as the series goes. You'll have to keep us posted.

    I tried learning to crochet so I would have something do with my hands while watching television or movies, but crocheting and I did not end on friendly terms. Maybe when I've developed more patience and have a better teacher, I will try again. You-Tube and taking a class obviously didn't work.

    I'm not familiar with Eddie Chapman, but you have me intrigued! What an interesting bit of history. I will have to look for that book. I do love a good spy story--and it's even more fascinating when it's based on fact.

    You've given me some ideas for Father's Day for my father-in-law . . . This is when I miss my dad most. He would have loved books like this.

    1. :) Wayward Pines was partially inspired by the weirdness of Twin Peaks, I think. Strange stuff!

      I can crochet, barely, can't follow a pattern or keep the size or even remember what stitch I'm on! I unravel almost everything I make!

      Chapman was an interesting character, amazingly brave, but a criminal at heart. I think he was a good spy because he loved the danger.

  3. I can never do anything while watching TV, well except when the commercials come on, lol. I wish I knew how to knit, crochet or any other craft works but decided they aren't for me. Still, it hasn't stop me from admiring other people's work. And I definitely admire yours. :)

    Hope you're enjoying watching the K-dramas. What are you watching now? I'm sure you'd finished watching The Girl Who Sees Smell? ;-)

    1. I can't do anything that requires thinking, but I can stitch up a storm while watching TV. Yep, finished The Sensory Couple, and you were right. They should have wrapped it up a lot sooner--the last 3 or 4 episodes were anti-climactic. Good cast, but it almost seemed as if they completed the story line and didn't know what to do with the rest of it. Watching Falling in Love with Soon Jung now. :)

  4. Watched first Wayward Pines. Very much a similar mood to Twin Peaks. I'm not trying to figure it out, rather just letting it take me where it will, also like Twin Peaks, because, obviously, there *is* no figuring it out LOL. I watch Blacklist, too, but cannot do anything else while it's on, otherwise I miss too many things and end up rewinding, over and over.

    1. Twin Peaks had a lot more humor, and of course, Kyle Maclachlan :)

  5. Great post-- much food for thought...
    I love your quilted beads! I too like to do things with my hands while I watch tv (okay, I like to eat with my hands watching tv, lol, that has to stop). I tried crocheting and while I enjoyed the repetitiveness of it, my rows were woefully not lined up due to poor turnings and tension. I color nowadays while watching some shows, but not Blacklist :) I have to keep my eyes on the screen for that one.

    My husband would like the WW books you mentioned-- he watches shows on History Channel about that era, Manhattan project etc. I hadn't heard of Granite Flats. I think both of us would enjoy that one. I'm currently watching Longmire on Netflix and Murder in the First on Hulu. I heard about Wayward Pines and that it's on Fox but I think Netflix or Hulu was going to stream all the shows too-- I will have to wait for that to happen. Maybe open the first book and give it a try-- I've had it on my kindle forever. Thanks!

    1. Rita, did I fail to mention that popcorn frequently keeps my hands busy? :) Watching James Spader's expressions is half the fun of Blacklist, and I have to admit to a lot of pauses in my stitching when watching it! I watched the first episode of Wayward Pines on Amazon Prime. Oh, if you have the book, read it first and then see if the characters and the town match your imagination!

    2. Coloring! What a great idea! Goodness knows there are plenty of crayons, colored pencils and coloring books about my house.

      I watch Blacklist too. :-)

  6. I'm usually not into spy stories - real or fiction - but a triple agent? Now that sounds interesting! We just watched the first two episodes of Wayward Pines. Not sure what to think of it but I'm willing to go with it a bit longer and see what I think. Grimm... where do I begin. I have to say I'm very annoyed with the whole Adeline is pregnant again and now it's almost like she's one of the gang! And, your quilted beads - oh my, these are beautiful! You'll have to do another post just about those as I would love to hear what you use them for, how long it takes to make them, etc.!

    1. Real spy stories sound as unbelievable as James Bond films. Which isn't surprising, I guess, as Ian Fleming was a naval intelligence officer during the war and worked with the Secret Intelligence Service and Special Operations Executive. The seed idea of Operation Mincemeat came from Fleming.

      Adeline is pregnant again! I have a ways to go on Grimm!

      Thanks, I love making the beads, but it is a slow process and perfect for watching my shows .:)