Book Review

2002-3/February 28, 2002


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Greetings from the windy Land of Enchantment. Much to cover this month so I'll skip the usual introductory comments.


Jerre Schermerhorn is one of the outstanding members of the Nevil Shute Norway Foundation team. We first got to know Jerre and her husband Jim during the preparations for the Nevil Shute Centennial in Albuquerque, in 1998-1999.

While Jim developed a presentation for the Centennial based on a review of EVERY aircraft mentioned in a NSN book (no small task), Jerre was helping me design a brochure for the Centennial. The brochure used for our mailout was primarily a product of her endeavors. Both Jim and Jerre volunteered to show up early for the Centennial in order to assist with final preparations.

They were true to their word, in spite of an auto accident en route. They left their wrecked RV in a garage, rented a car, and still arrived two days before the opening ceremonies. They spent the intervening time stuffing participant folders, assembling handouts, preparing display cases, and getting everything in order for participant registration. Thereafter, Jim and Jerre manned the registration center, welcoming everyone on board, providing information, and assisting in all the myriad details required for the Centennial to run smoothly. In addition, Jim chaired one of the thirteen panels presented at the Centennial.

Since the Centennial, Jerre has hosted a Nevil Shute Club on Yahoo, and has been a constant source of typing support for the web site and for the Foundation. She transcribed a major portion of the Nevil Shute biography by Julian Smith, which is still available on the web site. She deciphered and typed into a word processing format the entire text of one of Nevil's unpublished manuscripts as her contribution to what we hope will be the first Nevil Shute book to be published in over forty years. She is solely responsible for transcribing tapes from the Centennial and from OZ2001 for use in the newly created Reminisces section of the web site.

Both Jerre and Jim have had health problems for some time now, but nothing that has come their way has dampened Jerre's enthusiasm for work on Nevil Shute projects. She continues to amaze with her energy and optimistic outlook on life, and with the quality and quantity of her work. She is an inspiration.

Thank you Jerre! You and Jim are in our thoughts and prayers.



Our Webmeister, Jack Calaway, keeps tabs on items entered into the web site Search Function. On The Beach is far and away the most popular item, and has been since the Search Function has been initiated. I have a sneaking suspicion that this is due to the number of high school teachers throughout the country who assign OTB for required reading and book reports. Any teachers out there who would care to comment?


There is a new section on the web site: REMINISCES. The purpose of this section is to bring together talks, comments, and quotes from family and friends of Nevil Shute, having to do more with the man than with his books. To date, it includes Heather Mayfield's keynote address from the Centennial and Part One of Shirley Norway's presentation and Q&A session on growing up with Nevil Shute, also presented at the Centennial. As time and materials become available, we will add further talks and comments from Heather and Shirley, and quotes from those who knew Nevil and who have written and spoken about their times with him.


There is a new book review in the Bibliography section of the web site: To Ride the Storm, the story of R-101, written by Sir Peter Masefield and reviewed by Andy Burgess. The Bibliography section has also been augmented with a photo of Billy Slim's cabin, from The Farcountry. This is something we may be doing more of in the future. All Shutists with any ideas and/or photos of scenes/locales from Nevil's books are requested to contribute.

Along those lines, we have a rather poor quality picture of Ava Gardner gracing her comments on the making of On The Beach. Anyone have a good cheesecake or publicity photo of Ava with which we might spruce up the site?


There are two new analyses in the Characters section; Ronnie Clark, by Al Beggs, and My Favorite Characters, by Richard Michalak. Both analyses take approaches that are considerably different from those that have gone before, and both offer very interesting reading.


The library continues to fill the needs of Shutists throughout the world, averaging around three or four new loan transactions per week. Although we frequently loan both hardbound and paperback books, our most popular items are videos, manuscripts, and audio books. To fill these needs, we have recently doubled our video and manuscript holdings. We have also ordered a complete set of audio books. In the past, the library has never had a complete set of audio books, and most loans have been made from my private collection. With the reduced prices available through the Audio book Collection (See February Newsletter and/or the Resources section on the web site), I decided it was time for the library to have its own set.


The time has come that I would like for someone else to take over the Nevil Shute Norway Foundation Library.

As the above paragraph indicates, we are very well stocked, and the total assets can be turned over to any dedicated Shutist who would agree to manage the library for a reasonable period into the future. The Foundation would provide shipping to the new location and initial operating funds. The library program pays for itself, and even makes a modest profit, which is used to upgrade the holdings, etc.

The library records can be transferred both in electronic and hard copy format. Once the changeover is complete, it would be a matter of dedicating three or four hours a week to answering correspondence, mailing requested loaner items, taking receipt of returned items, and keeping very basic loaner records. Financial records can be limited to a petty cash fund, as the majority of cash flow is for postage.

The total holdings to be transferred will require 15 to 20 linear feet of shelf space - about the capacity of one six shelf book cabinet. If that would present a storage problem, the Foundation could pay for an inexpensive book case.

Although we expect that any Shutist who would accept the job would perform it with due diligence, there would no accountability or liability involved for lost or damaged materials. Very occasionally, someone will neglect to return a borrowed item, or remit the cost of postage. However, that is the exception, and those who include a few dollars extra with their postage remittance more than make up for the shortfall. Also, those who donate books far outnumber any who might forget to return one. Over the past three years, the library collection has constantly grown in size, with no appreciable investment of funds. In any event, if the collection were to be lost, stolen, damaged or destroyed, there would be no liability for the new librarian.

If any of our readers would consider taking over the library duties, would you please contact me by e-mail at or by telephone at 505-856-6774.


Hello Friends.

The last few weeks have been spent sifting through surveys and collating data on possible locations, speakers, topics and timings for the next gathering. Thank you to all of you who have contributed to that. The survey will stay on the website for the moment, so if anyone else has anything to add, please do check it out. Or, alternatively, If surveys really aren't your type of thing, please feel free to e-mail me directly.

Also thank you to those of you who have volunteered help in organising things. I will be contacting you collectively over the next couple of weeks with some proposals. Hopefully in next months update, I will be in a position to announce more detailed plans for the gathering.

Not much more to say for the moment. However if you have any questions about the gathering, please feel free to drop me a line at

Kindest regards, Steph


From (our prolific book reviewer) in the UK

As a someone interested in model engineering myself I wonder if anyone knows which model engineering club Nevil Shute belonged to in England? I would like to contact them to see if they have any memories of him or whether he is remembered in the club at all!


Andy Burgess

From also in the UK
Dear Dan:
It may be that this is already known to you and your wonderful organisation, but did you know that the company "Flight Refuelling Ltd" which is mentioned in "Slide Rule", and which was set up by Alan Cobham in 1932 still exists, and is in business in Wimborne Minster, Dorset UK.

They come under the umbrella of Cobham plc, and they have a web site There is even some history of the company, and the part concerning the early days, and particularly Alan Cobham's part, can be found directly by going to
Thank you for your newsletter, which I always find most interesting.

David Dawson-Taylor
NearSouthampton and Portsmouth, UK

From in Sweden
Dear Sirs,

I'm interested in how the public regarded Mr. Shute's novels when they were first published.

Round The Bend from 1951, and many other of his books, deals a lot with prejudices regarding religions and races. How was this regarded among the book critics in the early 1950s? Is there a source for this information on Internet?

Arne Lodin
Stockholm, Sweden

From in New Zealand
I guess my favourite is Pied Piper, which I have re-read several times. I find it really remarkable.

Next would be On the Beach, because of its chilling plot and 'futuristic' feel - similar to '1984' and 'Brave New World', and also reminding me of a play by Marghanita Laski, 'The Off-Shore Island.'. Also, perhaps, because I saw the movie in 1960 when I was eighteen, and will soon be seeing it again on video - I've reserved it from the library. Third would be A Town like Alice, though I also very much liked Trustee from the Toolroom.

Patricia Reesby

New Zealand

From in Holland
Over the last few days I have reread In the Wet - the last time may have been 20 years ago -, to my astonishment I was as captivated as ever. An hour ago I finished it and since then I have been thinking what it is that keeps me so intrigued.

There are a number of things that spring to mind.

Although the David Anderson part is situated in the eighties the story is a "document humaine" of the early fifties. the outlook of the characters seems almost archaic at times and perhaps therefore so endearing. There are no villains in the story, apart from the politicians. There has been no sexual revolution, no long hot summer, no hippies, no drugs.

The author has not made it a science fiction novel. The only mechanical projection he makes is the aeroplane, but it really remains a fifties plane that has been made to go faster, higher and farther. Crew composition, navigation and communication have not changed.

To my mind he shows his reasons why he himself left England. His disgust with the postwar socialist experiment, as portrayed in the characters of the prime minister Iorwerh Jones and of Lord Coles is revealing. He also shows compassion with the people, who suffer under the system.The emphasis on the ability of a country to grow its own food as a conditio sine qua non for economic success seems quaint to me, but I am neither an economist nor an economic historian. The way he extrapolates the society he left for Australia to the one he describes in the book is not very adventurous. It almost seems that the story here is primarely a vessel for his own thougts, his own discontent with the political climate in Great Britain. The multiple vote system he introduces in the book gave me a lot of food for thought. On the surface it seems quitte clever and sensible. Whether such a system of meritocracy would fare much better than our present system I have no idea, Comments from readers would be appreciated.

Roger Hargreaves, the priest who tells the story is portrayed as a open- minded person. At the end of the novel when the circle of reincarnation is closed, he manages to fit these bewildering occurrences into his Christian belief. No mean feat 50 years ago.

Although a lot of people might argue that the book is dated I know that I will keep going back to my Nevil Shute novels. Why? I don't know, perhaps nostalgia, a longing for a world where human decency was more the norm than it seem so often now.

He is a great storyteller, who must have been a decent man too.

Carel Roelants

Nuenen Holland

From somewhere in the US
A note to the Shutists (especially in the US) who listen to the NSN stories published by Recorded Books, Inc. (TFTTR, Pastoral) and narrated by Frank Muller: Frank Muller was seriously injured in a motorcycle accident last November, and because of brain damage there is concern about his ability to continue narrating books. Please check out for more information on Muller, the accident, his situation, and his history. IMHO Muller is by far the greatest narrator in captivity - he truly adds a new dimension to any book he reads. His loss would be felt acutely by his many fans.

Oren Wolfe

That is it for now folks. Keep those cards and letters (and volunteers) coming.

Regards from TLOE&E (The Land of Enchantment and Extraterrestrials),


Nevil Shute Norway