Book Review

2004-1/January 1, 2004

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On recently becoming the newsletter editor I nearly succumbed to the extraordinary power that comes with the job. Suddenly I had the chance to sway public opinion, influence politicians, pervert the course of justice and maybe buy a football team of my own.

Annoyingly, I was simultaneously struck by the age-old tradition of high-minded journalism. Might I not now march side by side with journalist / statesmen like Benjamin Franklin and Winston Churchill ? Was this not a chance to do good, change society for the better and to lead my people to greatness ?

But then I realized I was editing a newsletter for the fans of Nevil Shute who were already great people so my grab for world domination was unlikely to succeed.

Anyway, neither Nevil Shute himself nor Keith Stewart in Trustee From The Tooloom would have approved so Rupert Murdoch's empire is safe from me .... for the moment.

Still, in pursuing my revolutionary New World Order policy I have run riot and, wildly drunk with power, decided that because the vast bulk of the articles are generated from mail, the separate letters section will be eliminated entirely and all the letters will now be incorporated into the main body of the newsletter.
Happy New Year to everybody.

Long time Shute fan of Sydney, Australia, (formerly of The UK) has recently married Luanne, his partner of many years. The wedding reception was at the RAF Duxford Officers' Mess in the same dining room that legless WW2 RAF fighter pilot hero of The Battle of Britain, Douglas Bader used when he was commanding 242 Squadron. Derek says that the whole building just oozes history and has not been changed since it was built in the mid-thirties.

Dan Telfair has pointed out to me that the new address for the newsletter on the website is now:

of Portsmouth in the UK writes: I recently came across a book which may be of interest to Shutists. The Vectis Connection, Pioneering Isle of Wight Air Services by Peter Newberry is a history of commercial aviation on the South coast of England in the inter-war period.

There were various joy-riding concerns run by ex RFC/RAF WW1 pilots mainly using Avro 504s (very Stephen Morris). The book has details of the establishment of South coast Airports and air transport companies. There is a chapter devoted to Portsmouth Airport and there are many references to Sir Alan Cobham and Airspeed. There is only one specific reference to Neville(!) Shute Norway but there are many interesting photos of Airspeed aircraft many of which I have not seen before. There are also some excellent colour reproductions of advertising posters from the period.

On a totally different point, I was interested in the discussion on the AS31 and the location of the cockpit. Having the pilot sit at the rear of the aircraft reminded me of the Fireflash airliner in Gerry Anderson's Thunderbirds where the crew sat in the tailplane. (directly below the atomic engines !!!!)

And finally I recently discovered that there is a pub called the Clarence in Southsea in more or less the right location for Landfall, behind Clarence Parade pier. The building is modern but I'm trying to find out if it replaced an earlier pub of the same name.

Andy Banta of Orangevale, California in The USA writes: As I often do, I was browsing a used book store the other day and found a book simply titled R100 in Canada by Barry Countryman. It was published in 1982 by the Boston Mills Press. It is a very interesting book with many pictures of the R 100 under construction and in flight. It talks about many details of the construction of the airship. For example it tells how 11 inch wide by 0.056 inch thick strips of Duralumin were spiral wound into tubes with a riveted joint; the R 100 had 11 miles of this tubing in its frame. There is a very long and detailed section on the flight from the UK to Canada and back. There are many references to N. S. Norway throughout the book. It even has a copy of the sheet music for The R 100 with the words in both English and French; according to the book there were two recordings of this song. If you are interested in the R 100 I would suggest looking for a copy of this book.

of Otford, Seven Oaks, Kent in the UK writes: Recently I bought the December 2003 issue of the British magazine Aeroplane. It is honoring the centennial of Wilbur and Orville Wright's first powered flight on December 17, 1903.

The Bishop's Boys are two of my great heroes. Heroes that include our dear Nevil.

On page 18 in the Skywriters section is a line drawing of the Airspeed AS 14 Ambassador. The AS 14 was a very attractive twin-engined high-wing single tailed passenger plane. Unfortunately, this Ambassador never got off the drawing board. After WW II the concept was resurrected and became the AS 57 Ambassador with a stretched and pressurized body and triple tail. Twenty of these graceful birds entered service with British European Airways in 1952. A little late for piston engined airplanes. The Ambassador and the original Lockheed Constellation were far and away the most beautiful airplanes of the era.

Also on the same page as the drawing is the following letter titled The Other Ambassador:

SIR - I can add a tiny piece of the history of the lovely Airspeed Ambassador (Database, April Aeroplane): there was a pre-war Airspeed design also called Ambassador. It was then a high-wing twin (radials, I think) not unlike the D.H. Flamingo, but with a single fin. How do I know ? A. Hessell Tiltman's son Peter was at prep school with me, and I was staying with them before the 1939 war. A.H.T. took us around the factory, and in to meet the formidable N.S. Norway, who talked about the design from the scale model on his desk.

I am just recovering from a nasty Christmas cold. On its third day I found myself getting a bit testy and impatient at being confined to bed and couch. Fortunately, I took up Most Secret and was swept away to wartime England and the adventures of the motley crew of fire breathers. Miseries forgotten I spent most of the day on the edge of my seat - hard to do lying down - existing in the world so evenhandedly described by Shute. This is particularly impressive to me, because I have read this and most of his books five to ten times each over the past thirty years. He and Jon Hassler are about the only authors I can reread with such pleasure.

Delighted to find your website. Please put me down for the newsletter.

of Mitcham, Surrey, The UK writes: I noticed a mention of Lady Mackworth in your first newsletter. My parents (and Aunt) worked for Lady Mackworth, but I have only very recently taken up the challenge of finding out about her. I know she was on the Lusitania when it was torpedoed, and a little bit about Welsh mining, but not much else. If you have any information, or a contact who might, I would be very interested.

Editor's Comment: The Lusitania !!! - It seems to me that you only have to learn a little about Nevil Shute and his friends to learn the complete history of the first half of the 20th Century. Lady Mackworth, who I believe is still alive and well, was a contemporary of Shute's in the 1940s at Hayling Island.

of Tasmania, Australia write: Chris had a good voyage down from Brisbane in March with a crew of three aboard (the Morton's beautifully crafted, home built yacht) An Old Captivity and we're looking forward to a few good outings in the summer season. We were sorry to miss UK2003. Sounds as though it was every bit as good as OZ2001, but retirement has left us on a more limited budget so we'll have to enjoy future gatherings vicariously.

It has been exciting to have had so many synchronistic happenings regarding The Rainbow and the Rose over the past few months, and to have our suspicions confirmed by Heather (Mayfield - Nevil Shute's daughter), that her father loved the Port Davey area and definitely used the King family (and their settlement, Melaleuca) as his inspiration for the book.

of the UK writes: I received a book called 'Backroom Boys' for Christmas which includes a passage as a front piece from Samuel Smiles, Industrial Biography, 1863 as follows:

'Kings, warriors, and statesmen have heretofore monopolised not only the pages of history, but those of biography. Surely some niche ought to be found for the Mechanic, without whose labour and skill society, as it is, could not exist. I do not begrudge destructive heroes their fame, but the constructive ones ought not to be forgotten; and there IS a heroism of skill and toil belonging to the latter class, worthy of as grateful record, - less perilous and romantic, full of the results of human energy, bravery, and character.'

The rest of the book is quite interesting as well!

of Melbourne, Australia writes: I taught myself to reverse a tractor and trailer by using the `Shute method' i.e. visualizing the whole unit from above. Once one does this, reversing becomes easy!

Editor's Comment: John is referring to the AS31 aeroplane design idea and also a scene in In The Wet. In both of these the pilot is able to observe and accurately control the plane from above and behind.

of Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA wrote to subscribe. He also noted:

Remember .... Never let any mechanical object realize that you are in a hurry.

My question in last months newsletter about how to find the equivalent amount today of prices from the past generated more mail than I thought possible. Perhaps we should become an economics newsletter instead. (ho ho ho)

I learned a lot of interesting stuff. I hope non-money-obsessed Shute fans don't mind if I report some of the details that are quite irrelevant to Nevil Shute but kind of fun anyway.

told me that a US Navy Chief Petty Officer was paid $157.50 in 1940 after 16 years service whereas a 16 years of service Able Seaman only got $26.25. (I don't know if this is weekly, fortnightly or monthly) In 1942 Allans brother worked in a grocery store for $5- a week, a school teacher earned $495 per year. $495- would buy a new 1939-40 model Ford coupe. A brand-new Piper Cub aeroplane cost no more than $995.

wrote that in 1972 a new Nissan/Datsun 240Z coupe sports car with air conditioning was priced at $4567- Australian. A few years before that the Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow was priced at about $25,000 in Australia.

About 1966 Ken bought a pair of Florshiem men's shoes for something more than $17 Australian.

I (Richard Michalak) bought a good meal for two at The Larkspur Inn near San Francisco in 1976 for $17.76. I remember the price because it was the USA's Bicentennial Year and 1776 was everywhere so we rolled about laughing when we got the bill.

You can find calculators and tables for these values on the following websites.

of Albuquerque, New mexico recommended this excellent calculator at the Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank site for US Conversions of past amounts to present day values,

Other useful websites are:
US Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics:
Table Containing History of CPI-U U.S. From 1913 to Present:
There are many good links at:

Happy New Year to All from the Nevil Shute Norway Foundation Board of Directors !

The Nevil Shute Norway discussion board is nearly ready to be launched. Our Webmaster Jack Calaway has been working very hard behind the scenes setting up a framework for the discussion board. When launched it will make the site the ultimate source of information on all things Shute, and will provide a valuable forum for the exchange of news, views & books, et al. Watch This Space as they say!

The Translations section of the website has been updated to include details of Nevil Shute books in Dutch, French, German, Italian, Spanish & Japanese. Many thanks to the dedicated Shutists who have provided information for this. If you have anything to add, please mail Steph Gallagher directly at

There was talk at UK2003 of several ideas to increase our membership. One was to ask House of Stratus and other current producers of Nevil Shute books if they would consider including a Foundation Bookmark in any Nevil Shute books that are shipped. Has anyone followed up on this and, if not, are there any volunteers to contact publishers, produce bookmarks, etc.? Any other ideas to be pursued ? If so, please mail Steph Gallagher directly at

UK Shutists are very eager to organise an informal get together some time in spring/summer. This will not be on the scale of UK2003, but probably will be held over a weekend. To date Oxford and York have been mentioned as possible venues. If you would like to get involved in organising this event, have ideas as to what it should contain, or would just like to know a bit more, please contact Steph Gallagher directly at

The UK branch of the Nevil Shute library is now open for business. Full details of the holdings can be found on the website within the BIBLIOGRAPHY section. All items can be borrowed for free, however borrowers are asked to make a contribution towards postage & packaging. Other branch libraries can be found in the USA and Australia. Details of these are also on the website.

Unfortunately, a series of delays has been experienced and the Library will likely not be opened again until sometime around the end of January. Please be patient and consult the Lending Library page on the Web Site for progress reports.

The six copies each of A Town Like Alice, Landfall, Round the Bend, and Trustee from the Toolroom have been received by Dr. Bloy, our new Librarian in the Peoples Republic of China, and are already being put to good use by her students (and by Dr. Bloy and her colleagues). Future plans call for follow up gifts of audio books of these four novels plus a video set of the A Town Like Alice Masterpiece Theater series.

Donations to the Nevil Shute Norway Foundation, either through the PayPal button on the web site home page, or through are always appreciated.

Also, anyone interested in leaving a bequest to the Nevil Shute Norway Foundation is encouraged to contact the Foundation Secretary at

That completes this month's newsletter.
I live in the very beautiful city of Sydney, Australia, which was once described by a delayed, frustrated and Customs-infuriated Nevil Shute as An Ugly Town, Full Of Drunks or AUTFOD.

All the best from AUTFOD
Richard Michalak
Nevil Shute Foundation Historian and Newsletter Editor
Please write to:

Nevil Shute Norway