In December 1940, Ben Macintyre's anti-hero, Eddie Chapman, was in jail in Jersey - he already had a long record, including everything from safe-breaking to blackmail - when the Nazi occupiers threw a young hotel dishwasher, Tony Faramus, into the same jail; Faramus became Chapman's cellmate and friend. At Chapman's suggestion they both offered to spy for the Germans, essentially as a way of getting themselves out of jail and away from Jersey. Faramus, a small-time operator guilty only of obtaining £9 under false pretences and being in possession of an anti-Nazi leaflet, looked up to the older and more experienced Chapman. It did him no good: while Chapman was recruited into a purple career as Nazi spy and then double agent, Faramus was sent to Buchenwald and later to Mauthausen, where he was starved, beaten and worked almost to death through a succession of illnesses; he lost a lung and seven ribs. After the war he became a film extra, playing a starved-looking prisoner in The Colditz Story, and ended up as Clark Gable's butler in Hollywood. Macintyre says he got the idea for his book from reading Chapman's obituary (he died, aged 83, in 1997), but he might just as easily have made Faramus the central character.
LRB 19 July 2007 | PDF Download