Roland Chambers, Faber & Faber; £20
I was interested in this new biography of Arthur Ransome because of revelations about him that first surfaced in 2005. Ransome is, of course, best known for his Swallows and Amazons children's books that made him as famous in the 1930s as J K Rowling is today. Yet Ransome was also in Russia in 1917, where he wrote one of the best defences of the revolution I have ever read. Indeed, many in the British establishment denounced him as a Bolshevik and enemy of the state. So far so good, except that four years ago MI6 released files purporting to show that Ransome had been on their payroll.