John Buchan's World War One thriller 'Greenmantle' has some jaw dropping moments. On women, his hero declares, slightly inelegantly, 'Women had never come much my way, and I knew about as much about their ways as I knew about the Chinese language.' What he says about men with a flare for soft furnishings should probably not be repeated. But the plot - about Kaiser Wilhelm trying to stir up jihad in the Muslim World to bring down the British Empire - is truly gripping. So much rhetoric today dates the problems between the West and Islamic extremists back to the Sykes- Picot agreement, but Buchan (pictured above), who was basing a lot of his plot on the news as it was developing at the time (1915 to early 1916 - the agreement wasn't made till May) is completely fascinating on the way the Kaiser restyled himself as the Hadji Mohammed Guilliamo in order to inflame Turks and other Muslims to attack all Westerners who were not German, Austrian or Hungarian. It was meant to be my trashy holiday read, but I've spent as much time researching the background as I have raising my eyebrows at the jingoistic/chauvinistic prose.