Book Review

2002-6/June 1, 2002


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The pace is picking up for the Nevil Shute Norway Foundation, the Newsletter, the Web Site, the Library, and UK2003. If this month's newsletter rambles a bit, it is because I have been rambling a bit lately myself.


Being determined to shed the responsibilities of another biennial gathering, I successfully dumped them on capable and stouthearted UK Shutist Steph Gallagher. Steph had the very good idea to see if we could have some appropriate UK honor bestowed on Uncle Nevil in conjunction with UK2003. Toward that end, she wrote to one of our volunteers and contributors, and asked him for assistance in getting the awards. He agreed, and forthwith asked me to write the justifications!

Now, I turn once again to the loyal Shutist community and ask for assistance. I will write the justifications, but there are many of you who have done much more research than I have, and are better qualified to fill in some of the blanks. The rough outline of the areas to be addressed in the justifications, along with some possible sources of information, is included below. Anyone who is interested and willing to assist should examine the outline and pick out one or more areas in which to contribute. Please write me a note letting me know which area(s) you would like to attack, and then have at it. Final input should be received by the end of June, so that it can all be put together. Also, if there are other areas you feel should be addressed, please do not hesitate to suggest them, particularly if you have expertise in those areas.


1. Nevil's work on R-100, rising to the position of Senior Deputy Engineer under Barnes Wallis. Any patents he earned in that capacity. His personal contribution to the success of R-100. Sources: SLIDE RULE, THE AIRSHIP VENTURE, UK Patent Office.

2. His impact on Airspeed, Ltd., from the initial concept through acquisition by De Havilland. Providing work for British workers during the Depression. Designing/producing the aircraft chosen for the King's Flight. Aircraft design and manufacture contributions for WWII. Personal patents and design achievements such as the retractable undercarriage. Sources: SLIDE RULE, AIRSPEED, LTD., UK Patent Office.

3. Work in the Department of Miscellaneous Weapons Development. Leadership as the head of the Engineering Department. Personal contributions, devices designed, patents, received, etc. Sources: THE SECRET WAR, UK Patent Office.

4. Impact of Writing:

War work: Mass distribution of WHAT HAPPENED TO THE CORBETTS as training material for UK Civil defense workers and managers. Morale effect of PIED PIPER, LANDFALL AND PASTORAL.

Racial/religious tolerance: Way ahead of his time in themes of THE CHEQUERBOARD, ROUND THE BEND, and IN THE WET.

Antinuclear weapons movement: Impact of ON THE BEACH book and movie in giving impetus to nuclear disarmament.

5. Overall success as writer: Supposedly the most widely read living English author in the 1950's. Substantiation for this claim? Source: A. P. Watt, Ltd.

6. Flight of Fancy: Likely the longest flight ever taken by a private pilot, in a small plane, without sponsorship or financial support. Still may be a record. Any ideas on how to substantiate?

7. Films from Books: Ten films made based on his books.

8. Other ideas?


As of this writing, the first Nevil Shute book to be newly published in 42 years is available! THE SEAFARERS, a novella Nevil first wrote in draft form in 1946, is now available from The Paper Tiger. Please check out the What's New, Bibliography and Resources sections of the Web Site for additional details. We already have an excellent review of the new book by Professor Shoshana Milgram.

The Paper Tiger is also offering a new edition of Julian Smith's biography of Nevil Shute, the first time this book has been available in over twenty years. To order either or both, contact the Paper Tiger at


The Photo Album page in the Reminisces section of the web site has several new NSN family photos, including one of Uncle Nevil on horseback, at a place called Swamp Lake. The photo was taken during his trip to the US to gather material for BEYOND THE BLACK STUMP and TRUSTEE FROM THE TOOLROOM. The first Shutist to identify the location (State and specific area) will win a copy of THE SEAFARERS.


(That is only slightly nicer than saying: "I told you so!")

For some time now, I have maintained that the mythical town of Willstown in A TOWN LIKE ALICE was based on the actual town of Burketown, on the Gulf of Carpentaria. My opinion was based on a bit of Australian history, a review of notes in Nevil's Flight Log, and a comparison with scenes, characters and events in A Town Like Alice. That opinion was reinforced last year when Zia and I spent some time in Burketown and stayed at the "world famous" Outback Hotel there, which was the Burketown Pub for years before it was renamed. Not only does it appear much as the Willstown Pub was described in A TOWN LIKE ALICE, it hasn't changed very much in the succeeding half century.

Several Nevil Shute scholars have voiced dissenting opinions as to the genesis of Willstown, based on the geography involved, etc. Now, I have at last been vindicated. At the conclusion of "I Faced Up to This Problem", an article by Nevil Shute written in 1952, he specifically states that Burketown was the model for Willstown! Please see the new article: Nevil Shute Notes on A TOWN LIKE ALICE, in the Bibliography section of the web site. My thanks to Bill Hague of Adelaide, who sent the referenced article, along with another excellent review of A TOWN LIKE ALICE.


Those of you who read/memorize these monthly gems will remember the April letter from Professor Fred Erisman, in which he pointed out the startling similarities between certain passages in THE RAINBOW AND THE ROSE, and THE WAR BIRDS, a book written thirty years before. There were subsequent discussions on the probable explanation for this identical text, but no really satisfactory answers.

Now, thanks to Shutist Fulton Cook, in Florida, the mystery is nearly solved. Fulton sent a passage from the biography of Elliot White Springs (the author of the War Birds), in which it is noted that Springs and Shute were in correspondence during the time that THE RAINBOW AND THE ROSE was written. It seems very likely that Shute recognized the value of the background descriptions in THE WAR BIRDS, and incorporated them in THE RAINBOW AND THE ROSE, with the full knowledge and blessings of the original author.

I also remember reading an article a short time ago, in which Shute was praised for the painstaking research he did regarding technical aspects of flying during WWI for THE RAINBOW AND THE ROSE. The article stated that he was in contact with some authority of that period as a source of accurate information concerning WWI aircraft and their characteristics. I think it is highly probable that his source was Springs. However, I can't find the original article. Anyone out there who can help?


There are many new goodies on the web site. The Photo Album, under the Reminisces Section, is turning out very well. In an effort to further shirk my responsibilities, I have turned the management of the Photo Album over to Shutist, photographer, and cinematographer extraordinaire, Richard Michalak. Richard is building his own scrapbook of photos pertaining to Nevil Shute, his family, his accomplishments, etc. In conjunction with that effort, he will share his photos with the web site insofar as copyrights and permissions allow.

Richard has asked that anyone having any photographs of interest contact him and, if possible, share their pictures so that they can be shared, via the web site, with the entire Shutist community. If the origin of the photos is known, please include that information. In general, copyright should not be a problem, but we do want to give appropriate attribution and, where possible, notify the original photographers/publishers that we intend to post their photos on the site. If a photograph is taken from another web site, it is very important that Richard know the source. We will not post photos from another web site without specific permission.

For further information concerning this project, or to arrange contributions, please contact Richard at Photos sent to the Newsletter or NSN Foundation Web Site will be forwarded to Richard for collating and inclusion in the Photo Album section of the web site.


Please check out the Bibliography section of the web site for a new review of A TOWN LIKE ALICE, Nevil Shute's comments on the genesis of A TOWN LIKE ALICE, Shoshana Milgram's review of THE SEAFARERS, an Objectivist view of Nevil Shute's writing, updated Favorite Books Scorecard, etc. It has been a busy month!


From HREM Steph Gallagher:

Dear Friends.

A lot has been happening behind the scenes over the last few weeks. Firstly, I paid a visit to Southampton and Portsmouth. Both towns are mentioned in many Nevil Shute Norway books. For various reasons, I feel that Portsmouth is the location of choice. However this is dependent on securing a good venue in which to hold the gathering. For this, I took the opportunity to check out some hotels in the area. I think I have found the perfect hotel, but do not want to say too much at the moment just in case it falls through.

If all goes to plan, this should be a memorable and exciting event. At the moment we have a plump and healthy list of speakers; in fact people are queuing up to present! The enthusiasm for the gathering is refreshing and really does make the hard work worthwhile.


I have set up an e-mail list of people who have shown an interest in attending the gathering. It is my plan to send more detailed proposals and information only to those who have requested it. This is mainly because I don't want to burden people with endless information about something they have little or no interest in. If you would like to be added to the mailing list (currently standing at 73 names and counting), please do drop me a line. Just so that you know that you are on the list, I sent out a tester e-mail on 23rd May 2002. If you did not receive that mail message, then you are not on the list. If you would like to be added, just drop me a line and I will ensure you are added. Please note, Joining this mailing list will not be seen as a definite "yes I will attend", just interest. So you are not committing yourselves to anything. Please also be assured that e-mail addresses will not be shared with 3rd parties.

That's it for the moment. However if you have any questions about the gathering, please also feel free to drop me a line at:

I do reply to all e-mails received.

Kindest regards,



A bit of praise from


Do you know how long I've been looking for Julian Smith's Biography? Then to get both Seafarers AND the Bio with one shot! My cup runneth over.

You guys are wonderful. What an exciting day. Talked to Fred and my check is already in the mail.


From in Canada:

(In response to our mention of the Clifton Fadiman review of TFTTR last month)

Some sad news about the book reviewer Clifton Fadiman. According to: lists/exlibris/2000/07/msg00283.html

he has gone on, at age 95, to the great library in the sky. The erudite man read over 25,000 books in his lifetime, it is claimed. Resquiescat in pace.

All the best,

Allan Shute,
Avid Shutist in Western Canada

Hello the Nevil Shute Norway Foundation,

I am a big fan of Nevil Shute and I enjoy your web site very much.

I have a quick question, in several of his earlier books, Nevil Shute mentions that "somebody hadn't had his Kruschens".

Does anybody know what Kruschens are ?


Lindsay Morrison

Note: Someone answered this question a few months back, but I can't find my reference to it. As I recall, Kruschens were a form of health food, digestive aid, or somthing of the sort, popular in the UK at that time. Can someone help Lindsay with a more definitive answer?

From in Australia:

I'm not a great reader of Shute though I've managed to read 'No Highway', 'A Town Like Alice' and 'The Far Country'.

What struck me about them was the absolute authenticity of some of the locations described. I spent several months in Cloncurry, a small desert town in northwest Queensland in 1969 with visits to some of the places nearby ("nearby" meaning less than a full day's drive away). This was obviously twenty years or so after Shute saw them. Yet the descriptions in "A Town Like Alice" were still recognisable. In one case the only difference was the absence from the street of a certain pub, and that had burnt to the ground a few months before I arrived.

The Willstown of "A Town Like Alice" is a thinly disguised version of a town in Queensland Gulf Country region and my guess is that it is in a worse condition today than it was when Shute saw it. The name is from the famous Burke and Wills expedition to cross the continent from Melbourne. The expedition was a tragic disaster with all but one of the leading members dying of starvation. (Thereby hangs a tale with several Nobel Prizes attached, but it's not for this note.)

"The Far Country" contains much that was familiar to Australians in the 1950s. The immigrant from an eastern European "captive nation" who makes good and marries a local girl forms the plot of several Australian novels of the time. It was satirised by John O'Grady writing as "Nino Culotta" in "They're a Weird Mob" late in the 1950s. But it was actually a commonplace story. I knew pastrycook Rudi who got out of Hungary in 1956 and married the daughter of a sawmiller; Bernie, a butcher who fled East Germany just before the Wall went up, married locally and now owns several houses, an apiary, a collection of pheasants and a small farm. And so forth.

Another side of "The Far Country" is the sudden prosperity of the woolgrowers after decades of barely rewarded labour. If you have read Jill Ker Conway's "The Road From Coorain" (an autobiography) you will see the same thing. The real cause has little to do with Socialism or lack of same, but much to do with the run of good seasons or series of good years, so rarely seen by Australian farmers. The other factor was an increased demand for wool brought on by the recovering European economies and by the Korean War. Australian woolgrowers had never had it so good since the 19th century, and they haven't since.

"The past is a foreign country, they do things differently there" must be kept in mind when some reviewers are inclined to tut-tut about Shute's record of racial attitudes in the 1940s and 1950s. Australians might have had a poor attitude toward aboriginal people in that era but it must be remembered that racial attitudes throughout the English speaking world were much the same and considerably more extreme in some places.

I wonder whether Shute lifted the business with the dishmop in "No Highway" from "Cold Comfort Farm" or did he take it from life?

Ken England

(I will write to Ken to urge that he read other NSN novels such as THE CHEQUER BOARD, ROUND THE BEND, and IN THE WET for a more complete view of NSN's racial attitudes in the 1950's. Also, he is right about Burketown not having changed much since Uncle Nevil's time. If anything, I believe that it may have gone down hill a bit.)

That's it for this month folks. Please, keep those cards and letters coming.

Regards from The land of Enchantment,


Nevil Shute Norway