Thomas Laurie was much needed; a village policeman and honourable man, he kept the peace at home, even in war.

Yet driven by conscience and the stares of strangers, he’d entered an army enlisting office in Worcester and jumped. Now, owned by King and country he was thousands of miles from those he loved, holed up in a rat-infested carpet shop in a Cairo backstreet.

Somewhere opposite within the gloom of a tired hostel was the spy. He and Corporal Nooney would sort it, they always did.

But still the doubts nagged: Mildred Lowthian, his senior officer at the Arab Bureau was unlike any woman he`d known, but she too seemed burdened by the duplicity of superiors. And the ignorance and disdain of those with power had shocked.

Who was he really helping? At the same hour in her farmhouse on the Spanish island of Menorca, the formidable self-made landowner Llucia Quintana sat fearing for the safety of Oriol, her only son and heir.

His routine trading trip to Cairo was to be his last; Mediterranean passage had become increasingly hostile and British control of the city unpredictable. He’d not made contact; but how could she rely upon others for help given her past?

Ash James has always written, though other work came first. He has been a barman, postman and Deputy Head of a Secondary School, for which he was paid, and variously a Music Promoter, Citizens Adviser, Musician, Charity Fundraiser, mini-Vicar, centre-page spread and Chair of Governors: for which he was thanked.

He is now free to graze his imagination and The Poet Laurie Ate is his first published novel. Ash explains: “I began to find evidence of my Grandad’s exploits in Cairo in WW1 while checking old documents, post cards and medals he had passed down.

“The more I dug, the more apparent it became that Grandad, a village policeman, had played something of a civilian plain-clothes military police role in this huge Arabic city. Not only that, even though technically just a corporal he, together with his fellow plain clothed colleague was commended by his superiors for his role in the ‘Sugar Case’, eventually receiving the Meritorious Service Medal.

“As children it was whispered he`d captured a spy though we were too afraid to ask, and he never discussed such things. This was the inspiration behind my novel as I decided to portray an under-represented period and place, Cairo in 1917, through the eyes of those most acutely involved.

“My aim was to show this through an exciting action story, involving subterfuge, entitlement and the struggle to be heard. The Poet that Laurie ate reveals through the characters the parallels between then and now, asking the question - have we really learnt?”