I suffered from acute asthma as a child. Until I was 11 or so, there was no effective medication for the ailment, so I spent a fair bit of time off school. Adventure stories, read propped up in bed, provided my escape from tedium, and the spoonfuls of sticky malt I had to swallow to "build me up". A ripping yarn by any standards, Greenmantle is set across two action-packed months during the First World War. At the outset, the suave soldier-spy Richard Hannay — a kind of Edwardian James Bond figure - is convalescing after a typically heroic stint on the Western Front. Hannay and his admirable sidekick Sandy Arbuthnot are summoned by the Foreign Office's senior intelligence commander, Sir Walter Bullivant.

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It contained "unsuitable and insensitive material" at this difficult time. A different reaction, you may remember, from the one the BBC displayed to another of its programmes: Jerry Springer - the Opera. Quite a lot of Christians complained that the material there was unsuitable and insensitive Jesus, so far as I recall, was shown as an adult wearing nappies , but the broadcast went ahead anyway. The BBC said that it would not be dictated to. Faced with potential Muslim anger, its courage is less visible. It is a pity that we are not allowed to listen to Greenmantle, particularly just now. As many Buchan fans will remember, it has some things to say about religion, conflict and the interests of this country.


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