Book Review

2002-5/May 1, 2002


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Management of the Nevil Shute Norway Foundation Library is now in the capable hands of Shutist Ed Yess, in Blanchester, Ohio. He has things up and running, with a number of active borrowers and a waiting list for the A Town Like Alice miniseries. Ed also has all of the old library records so, if you have borrowed anything in the past, he has your address, loan history, etc. (I have had more than one request to send a Shutist copies of everything he or she had not yet borrowed!)

To borrow items from the library, or to contact Ed for anything else, refer to the Library page on the web site.


We have added several new items to the web site, including a Family Photograph Album on the Reminisces page, and several examples of Nevil Shute's signature on the Etcetera page (just in case you want to see if that autograph on your Cassel edition of Marazan is genuine). We will continue to build the photograph album as well as additional input for Reminisces.

One other thing that we would really like to have is a voice recording. Shirley Norway once told me that she had heard a tape of a talk that her father gave. I believe that it was when he was in the Department of Miscellaneous Weapons Development of the British Admiralty during the war. However, the person who had the tape is deceased and his survivors are unaware of where the tape might be. Also, I believe that the speech that Nevil made when he was in the US trying to drum up support for the war against Germany was recorded. I once read a transcript of the speech, which was probably made from a recording. However, I have no idea how one would go about finding a copy. Anyone out there have any suggestions?


Our Webmeister, Jack Calaway has pointed out that we do not have a review of Julian Smith's biography of Nevil Shute. Would someone be willing to take this on?

There is a new review of Trustee from the Toolroom on the Bibliography/Book Review page of the web site. This one was sent to us by Art Cornell, who discovered it in one of his older copies of the book. It was written by Clifton Fadiman for the Book of the Month Club News, when Trustee was first published. Mr. Fadiman was apparently something of a snob and, although he had high praise for the readability of the book, he did not think it had a great deal of literary merit. Two direct quotes from the review are:

--An exciting story, honestly conceived, even if devoid of much literary grace--

--A book that is certainly not destined for the ages, but equally sure to afford a couple of evenings of delightful entertainment--

I wonder where Mr. Fadiman is now, and what he would think of Trustee being a close third behind A Town Like Alice and Round the Bend on the list of favorite Nevil Shute books!


Favorite book votes continue to come in. A Town Like Alice, Round the Bend, and Trustee still have firm hold of the top three slots. (See comments above) Check out the latest results at Favorite Books Score Card at What's New or under the Bibliography page on the web site.


In last month's Letters to the Editor, Fred Erisman pointed out some amazing similarities between a number of passages in The Rainbow and the Rose, and in The War Birds, a book written thirty-two years earlier. The passages in question deal with the life and times of First World War aviators. I have obtained a copy of the War Birds, which is quite an interesting book in its own right, and reviewed the similar passages. If anything, Fred understated the case. There are a number of passages that are nearly identical. This deserves some explanation.

Of course, it is unthinkable that Nevil copied from another book. At the point in his writing career when The Rainbow and The Rose was written, he certainly did not need to copy from anyone. Also, the passages in question were not at all key to the story. There was no reason to copy them. Finally, the one thing that makes us all love Nevil's work is the morality of his characters. I, and many other Shutists, are convinced that Nevil drew the morality of his characters from his own value system. In short, I am absolutely convinced that the passages in question were not copied from The War Birds.

My own theory, based on a review of the passages in question, was that they were common to the lore of post-WWI aviators. Good war stories have a way of assuming lives of their own and, that which may have happened to someone else, sometimes is remembered as happening to the person telling the story. Nearly all veterans like to spin yarns about their wartime experiences, and pilots are generally the worst of the lot. My belief is that both Nevil and the author of The War Birds heard these stories from some WWI aviator or another, and incorporated them legitimately, and separately, into the two books. I have begun an informal investigation attempting to find someone who has heard reference to the passages in question elsewhere.

Anyone else have any ideas?


From HREM Steph Gallagher:

Dear Friends.

I am currently looking into possible venues. England is not known for being "cheap", so It is not that easy finding a place that is suitable, comfortable, in a desirable location and cost effective! However the search has only just begun and we WILL find the perfect venue.


I am also working on a list of speakers and topics to be included. However there is always room for more ideas! If you would like to suggest a possible speaker, have a desire to present yourself, or have a topic in mind that you feel would be an enhancement to our gathering, then please do drop me a line. The only criteria is that it is directly related to the life and times/work/novels of Nevil Shute Norway. (NB: Speakers & topics suggested in returned surveys have all already been added to the list.)

That's it for the moment. However if you have any questions about the gathering, or would like to receive a more detailed outline of planned events, please also feel free to drop me a line at I do reply to all e-mails received.

Kindest regards,



From in Paris:

Dear Dan:

I have been in contact with Steph. Gallagher regarding the "Gathering" in June, next year, as I am very interested in attending this event and meeting other Shutists.

I am also interested to know if they are any Shutists in the Paris region, and if there are, do they have a discussion group, and if not, would anyone be interested in forming one?

Anyone interested can contact me at

Best regards, Margaret Hunt

From in Brisbane:

I am very keen to attend the Nevil Shute get together in Portsmouth/wherever in UK next year. I plan to travel overseas then so hopefully it will fit in with my other plans.

I have been reading with interest your monthly newsletters and would like to meet up with some of the Aussie members so please pass on my address or e-mail address to those here.

I have also been following some interesting letters in the Stockmans Hall of Fame magazine/newspaper which is published quarterly in Queensland and posted to members. The Stockmans Hall of Fame is a museum in Longreach, West Queensland devoted to the people and history of the outback pioneers. It is the official publication of the Outback Heritage Centre. It was opened in 1988 by the Queen during our Bicenntennial year.

The recent letters concern Ringer Jim Edwards and his death in 2000 in Western Australia. I had written to them expressing my sadness to read of his death and the correspondence has followed since then. Nevil Shute based his character Joe Harman on Ringer Jim Edwards. Nevil Shute met him in Cloncurry in 1949 during one of his stopovers. I do not have a scanner so I will post you a copy of the correspondence. However I quote a small portion of the letter written by a Lila Adlem of Kingaroy, Queensland "Jean Paget, the English girl Joe meets and falls in love with when they are both prisoners of the Japanese, was in real life a Dutch girl named Fanny Blankes-Cohen. According to Jim the two characters met, in the book at least, because Nevil Shute said there had to be a romance." (end Para 3)

This information is very wrong. Fanny Blankes-Cohen was a Dutch Olympic runner in the 1950's. As it says in the Authors Note at the back of copies of ATLA "In 1949 I stayed with Mr. & Mrs J.G.Geysel-Vonck at Palembaang in Sumatra. Mrs Geysel had been a member of that party. When she was taken prisoner she as a slight pretty girl of twenty-one, recently married; she had a baby six month old, and a very robust sense of humour. In the years that followed Mrs Geysel marched over twelve hundred miles carrying her baby, in the circumstances similar to those which I have described. She emerged from this fantastic ordeal undaunted, and with her son fit and well"

I wonder if anyone has ever tried to track down Mrs Geysel or her son? I have found the person who NS based Rose the waitress in Alice Springs on. I also spoke to Jim Edwards' daughter Pauline when in 1999 I was trying to organise a Nevil Shute ATLA conference in Cloncurry. Jim actually married the nursing sister at the Normanton (?) hospital. Her name is also Pauline.

I wrote to HOF paper last year after reading that Jim had died (August 2001) hoping that in some way in the future an outback acknowledgment could be made to Nevil Shute's book ATLA and its influence in bringing the outback into the homes of ordinary Australians.

The HOF newspaper is $27.50 per year (Aust) It is full of outback stories, yarns, poetry, biographies and is worth the investment. Post to Hall of Fame, GPO Box 1, BRISBANE 4001. AUSTRALIA They will send back copies.

I think that's enough of ATLA for now. Best wishes and keep up the good work.

It is great to read about Shutists each month,



From in the UK:
Just for the record - in the retyped article on Shute and the R100, the river on which Howden stands is the Ouse and the nearby town is Goole.

I am a long-time admirer of Shute's work and have just introduced my partner to his work - I can't get her nose out of The Chequer Board.

Gavin Jones

From in Maine:

I own all of Nevil Shute's books and have read each of them 3 father attended Balliol College with him.....I would very much like to receive your newsletter...

I had a nice letter from Heather Mayfield, from Tucson in 1965, shortly after I became addicted to her father's books.

Thank you so much,


Note: I have corresponded with John and learned that he has a copy of the 1934 Balliol Yearbook, including a reference to an alumnus of growing Note: Nevil Shute Norway. He is sending me a copy of the yearbook entry, and I will likely publish it in next month's newsletter and/or put it on the web site.

From in the UK:

Note: James had written me previously offering a first edition of The Far Country for sale. I told him that I would be happy to list his offer in the newsletter if he would provide details. Anyone wishing to make an offer for the book should contact James directly.


Thanks for your e-mail.

The answer to your questions are as follows:

Publisher - Heinemann 1952, London (at the Windmill Press, Kingswood, Surrey)

Dust Jacket - sadly none.

Book condition - Hardback. Very good. Spine intact. Colour red. Indented in the front cover is the SN logo and on the back is the indentation of the Heinemann logo.

Defects - minimal foxing on edges

Inscriptions - none handwritten. The first page is a printed poem, part of the publication, by AE Housman.

As for asking price - well I took your advice and looked at and the closest I could find was a Heinemann 1952 1st ed. no dj, with sellotape tracks to the pastedowns at £15.00 (sterling). My copy would, by the description, appear to be in better condition. what do you think?

Many thanks for your help.

James Taylor

That's it for now folks. Keep those cards and letters coming.

Regards from the Land of Enchantment and Enchiladas,


Nevil Shute Norway