Book Review

2004-2/Februry 1, 2004

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As you were all recently emailed, Steph Gallagher has created the new Nevil Shute Discussion Board. You can access the discussion board by clicking onto then click on Discussions on the left hand side menu.

Kenneth Deacon of The UK writes: I have just had published a book on the history of Howden's airship station from 1915 to the present day, including the construction of the R100 with NSN involvement. The book retails at 3.95 and I wondered if any of your members would be interested? There is information on the book and its contents on my web site which is already linked to your site the url is
PS the book should be available from in the next few weeks.

Further to their report on Shute in Tasmania and location in The Rainbow and The Rose, write: Nevil Shute did visit the King family (at Port Davey) on several occasions. He sailed in at least once, including in Feb. 1953 aboard a yacht called "Saona". Later, as a gesture of appreciation, he sent oil lanterns for the two daughters, Mary and Janet, to use aboard their family boat "Melaleuca". We've met Mary (she was a guest at a meeting of the Wooden Boat Guild in Hobart) and she remembers Shute's visit and still has the lantern! Janet and her husband live about half an hour from us but we've yet to meet them. We asked Heather (Mayfield - Shute's daughter) if she thought her father used Melaleuca as his inspiration for the book and she said, "Most definitely...he loved the Port Davey area". The Lewis River (the location of the sick child in The Rainbow and The Rose) is about 70 klms. north of Melaleuca (Port Davey) and is even more remote. According to a member of the Wooden Boat Guild (a fellow Shute fan) his former home, Sheffield, IS 'Buxton' (the town in Northern Tasmania where Johnnie Pasco has his airfield). He described the small airfield and the surrounding area. Sheffield is easy to access by road. It's about 95 klms. west of Launceston. Shute said 50 miles (80 kms).

Editor's Comment: In following this up I have discovered that the yacht Saona, built in 1936, is still afloat and well.

UK 2004
of The UK writes: UK Shutists had such a good time at the UK 2003 gathering that everyone thought it would be a good idea to have a re-union in 2004. Foolishly I stuck my head over the parapet just before Christmas and e-mailed UK Shutists with some initial thoughts on what format the gathering might take and where we might meet. So now, for my sins, I have the task of organising it! Fortunately HREM Steph Gallagher (who did such a brilliant job of arranging UK2003) has kindly agreed to help me and act in the role of adviser and general eminence grise.

At this stage we envisage a weekend meeting Saturday lunchtime to Sunday lunchtime probably in late May or early June with perhaps a brief visit on Saturday afternoon, a re-union dinner, and discussions/presentations/chat on the Sunday morning. The likeliest venues are either Oxford or York, with Oxford having a slight lead in popularity.

What we need now is input from Shutists as to what they would like from the event given the above timescale and bearing in mind that the event has to be self-financing. To this end Steph has started a new thread on our excellent new Discussion Board so all helpful input will be most welcome (this is what it's for isn't it?). Updates for the event will be posted on the Discussion board.

Any non UK-resident Shutists who might just happen to be in England around that time will be most welcome of course.

writes: I think I fell in love with the writing of Nevil Shute when I saw A Town Like Alice - cried buckets and then read the book - even worse. I have collected a lot of his works in the old paperbacks and, you know how it is, you never get round to reading them, and then, I was off work with knee surgery and I read Slide Rule. Can I just say, what a wonderful man, what a wonderful story and I wish that I had had the opportunity to meet him.

of Tasmania, Australia writes: Hello from Tasmania. Hinkler Books, the Australian publisher of discount books, seem to be reprinting some or all of the House of Stratus titles by Nevil Shute. This week I picked up quite a nicely printed paperback of Round The Bend for $4-95 at a newsagency in North Hobart. Australian readers might like to scan the discount paperback bin next time they buy a newspaper or a magazine. Regards to all Shutists.

Joe Beranek of Tucson, Arizona USA writes: Worthy of comment ...... is the efficiency of GOOGLE and its ability to scan the billions of words on the internet. ... I often wonder what Nevil Shute would think of the Internet and how he would use it.

Editor's Comment:
I think Shute would have loved computers and the internet as he was obviously curious and loved his typewriter. Shute credited having a decent typewriter as one reason his 3rd novel attempt, Marazan, was publishable. Strangely, Shute only mentions 1 computer in his novels and that is in the unfinished and unpublished last novel, Incident at Eucla. As this was written in 1959-60 it may be that computers were only really then getting into the collective consciousness. However, as an engineer, I don't doubt that Shute was well aware of computers from the time of WW2. It becomes even stranger that he didn't mention them earlier when you consider that in the 1920s Shute headed a team of human computers doing all the stress calculations for R100 by hand.

writes: My wife and I were disappointed not to be able to attend the 2003 gathering but business demands kept me at the office. We would be most interested if the Brits would accept a couple of Yank enthusiasts this year, in Oxford or York, both superb choices. On another note, I did not tell my wife what a Piper Cub cost in the 30s. Mine; built up fresh from new and old parts a year and a half ago was just a bit more. Nevil would have loved it, though, and it would have been such a joy to share the pleasure of the air with the man.

of The USA writes: To follow up on Andy Banta's letter about R-100 books, a new book on the R-100 and R-101 has just appeared -- in French. The author is Michel Pratt, the title is Les DIRIGEABLES dirigeable R-100 et R-101, and the publisher is Societe historique du Marigot, Longueuil, QC, Canada. It may be purchased online from This book is chock full of photos of both dirigibles, and as a free bonus a CD-ROM is included which contains both video footage of R-100 and R-101 and audio versions of two French songs written for the R-100.

Editor's Comment: Thinking that Beall might have made a typo with the spelling of Dirigeable, I checked with my mother who was a teacher of French. She confirmed that those independent-minded French do insist on using their very own spelling for Dirigible. Their recalcitrant stubbornness in this regard may be absurdly and unreasonably based in the fact that the French invented and pioneered balloon flight.

of The UK writes: Here in the UK the BBC have run a series of 1 hour programmes entitled The Crafty Tricks of War presented by a retired army guy who re-created some of the devices used in the Second World War. The first programme was on the work of the DMWD and inevitably featured the Great Panjandrum. Original footage from the WW2 trials was interspersed into the programme (featuring the footage from the Imperial War Museum with Shute at the controls) together with the making of a modern day Panjandrum complete with rocket propulsion which actually succeeded in knocking down an obstacle, albeit on nice flat tarmac and without a payload. In the programme 2 people who worked in DMWD during the war were interviewed and I am following this up to see if we can get in touch with them since they would have known Shute and no doubt would have recollections of him.

Recently UK Shutist John Anderson visited the British National Archive and reviewed a series of Technical Histories for the DMWD, and material relating to both the R100 and R101 airships. Several items reviewed are directly related to the work of Nevil Shute Norway. Details of his visit can be found on the updated website Etcetera page. Here you will find a list of the projects undertaken by the DMWD including those on which Shute was personally involved. John also gives detailed information on how the archive works.

of Cape Cod, USA writes: Hurray, I finally have the third Nevil Shute Chapter up and running. It is the Cape Cod Chapter in Massachusetts. On January 4 we met at our house in Osterville and seven members attended-six others who are interested could not attend. Three of those attending had responded to an inquiry I made in the Cape Cod Times about Shute's visit to Cape Cod in 1939 when he was gathering information for his books An Old Captivity and Vinland the Good. None of them could remember Shute's visit but wanted to join the Cape Cod Chapter. They thought they were the only readers of Nevil Shute.

At our meeting each person talked about how they were introduced to Shute and what was their favorite book. I told how I liked people who read Nevil Shute books and I think they all had the same belief. Everyone had such a good feeling that they scheduled another meeting in April with Chequer Board as the novel to discuss.

An English tea was served. We had tea sandwiches of butter and cucumber; shrimp with horseradish cream cheese; and duck and apples with a curry spread. We also had scones that were brought by members and a cherry cake that my wife, Joan had made. I told everyone that Shute had written about a cherry cake in three of his novels. One was Ruined City but only Richard, the newsletter editor, knows where the other two are mentioned. The Chapter already has a web site designed by member Pat Skelly. You can visit it on: Please note our impressive logo.

Joan and I will be leaving Cape Cod for Colorado for six months on January 11 so that we can attend the Colorado Chapter meeting on January 24.

Editor's Comment: Cherry cake first appears in Ruined City (1938) and then reappears in The Chequer Board (1947) and Trustee From the Toolroom (1960). The Great Cherry Cake Debate rages because it is not quite clear if the repeated appearance of cherry cake is because it defined, in Shute's mind, a typical working class delicacy or just because it may have been Shute's favourite cake. Enthusiastic Literary History Gourmets can see a period illustration of a Lyons Tea Shop Cherry Cake in the 1948 section of the website photo album at:

writes: My wife, Linda and I made a pilgrimage to one of the more obscure Nevil Shute location, Eucla, Western Australia. Apparently this town was going to be the location of much of the action in the novel, Incident at Eucla, that Nevil was working on when he died. In the actual typescript the protagonist, William Spear, does arrive in Eucla but the story stops shortly afterwards. Eucla is the site of the telegraph station that relayed messages between Western Australia and South Australia. As I understand things, they couldn't agree on the exact coding of messages. Thus the messages came in to one end of the building, were written out, passed across the counter and re-sent from the other end of the building. At one time they had operators working 24 hours per day doing these tasks. Automated relaying finally was installed sometime in the early 1900s.

As I'm sure many of you know, it isn't easy to get to Eucla. In our case we took the coach from Perth to Eucla, stayed a day, and then went on to Adelaide. The first problem was convincing an American travel agent to make the coach reservations. Airplanes, trains, rental cars, hotels they could do but the coach from Perth to Adelaide; are you really sure you want to do that? When they finally did do it they got us to Eucla but failed to make the second reservation from Eucla to Adelaide. The coach agents at Perth were most helpful in taking care of this problem; the coach was nearly completely booked but they did find room. The original bookers laughed aloud when we inquired about a rental car for this venture.

The coach left Perth at something between 8:00 and 9:00 AM; it arrived in Kalgoorlie in the early afternoon and finally reached Eucla at about 1:00 AM. We had made reservations at the only motel in town. Well, in fact, the motel, caravan park, restaurant and petrol station are the town. We were told our room was next to the museum and it would be unlocked. After a short night we got up, had breakfast, and then checked in and out of the motel.

As we had requested, the motel did provide us with a driver to show us around town. The first stop was the telegraph station, scene of the action in Nevil's book. When we got there all, that we could see was the top bit of the telegraph station; the rest is buried under sand. In Incident at Eucla there is mention of sand pushing against one side of the building; I presume this was the case in the 1959/1960 when the book was being written. From there we went on to the beach and the old pier (shown below) that was used to supply the town and, I believe, to export lumber. In California a beautiful beach on a beautiful summer day is completely covered with people. In Eucla it was white sand beach as far as we could see in both directions and the three of us were the only people there. We went on to see the original highway, a gravel road. After lunch we visited the entrance to a cavern, chased a big red kangaroo with the 4wd utility vehicle we were in, enticed an emu to come closer for a good look ( both ways), and visited the pile of rocks that marks the border between Western Australia and South Australia. We also visited the small museum which had numerous pictures and artifacts from the glory days of Eucla. One interesting item was the printing press used to print the 6 x 8 weekly newspaper. After dinner we sat around until about 2:00 AM waiting for the coach to Adelaide under the most magnificent night sky imaginable. We had breakfast somewhere on the eastern null arbor and finally arrived at Adelaide about 7:00 PM.

Needless to say this was one of our more memorable adventures

Editor's Comment:
Shute collected the information for Incident at Eucla in mid 1954 at the same time as he was researching for Beyond The Black Stump. He used some rare geographical poetic license in Incident at Eucla and invented a large set of doors into the Telegraph Station. These doors never actually existed. Shute populated one of the trucks entering through his doors with Landrace pigs. In 2001 Shute's farm manager, Fred Greenwood, confirmed that Shute raised Landrace pigs. It has always struck me that, in the most perfect way, Nevil Shute was one of the most unimaginative writers possible as he filled his novels only with what he knew well. He only diverted from the factual world when he really needed to for literary purposes. His genius was to have an interesting life and then to recognize what in it was interesting and write about it well. You can see a photo of The Telegraph Station at Eucla by going to:

writes: I first visited Hayling (Island, location of Shute's home, Pond Head) in 1933 and then every year up to the War, went down to Hayling from Godalming during the War (illegally) a few times, caught in one bad raid and then spent Army leaves there until demob in 48. Malayan Police 51 to 62 and bought a house in Woodgason Lane in 62 to70.

I am a great Shute fan, have all his novels and Slide Rule and a book called Flight of Fancy by James Riddell describing Shutes flight from UK to Australia after the war. My copy of Lonely Road is inscribed 'PJ Heaton from NS Norway'. Until I read the article I was unaware that Shute had lived on Hayling. I know all of the locations in Malaya described in A Town like Alice and believe that Trustee from the Toolroom comes from a voyage made by Miles Smeeton described in his book Once is Enough foreword by Nevil Shute. I still regularly read all of the books he wrote, I think What happened to the Corbetts was a real foretaste of what happened to Southampton. I used to sail a Folkboat in the Solent.

By coincidence NZ television showed a Town like Alice as one of their Xmas films this year.

I now live at 105 Wright Road, Katikati RD2, New Zealand, any Shute fans will be welcome here!

MONTREAL IN 2005 ???
No decision has been made on the exact location for the 2005 conference. At UK 2003 it was decided that the 2005 conference should be in North America. The Pacific Northwest and Cape Cod have been suggested as locations. Andy Banta has now suggested Montreal for NSN2005 because it will be the 75th anniversary of R-100 trip.

Does anyone have any thoughts on this ?

writes Having just discovered the excellent Nevil Shute Foundation website, I have a few questions that you may be able to help me with: 1. Someone once told me that the title of Nevil Shute's book 'Marazan' was based on a place called Marazion in Cornwall, UK. Unfortunately, I have never been able to discover if this is true or not. Please let me know any information about this unusual book title.

2. My favourite book of Nevil Shute is 'On The Beach.' Please inform me whether the film is available on DVD and if so is there a version compatible for the UK? I have searched high and low but I can't find a copy anywhere! 3. Are there any local gatherings of The Nevil Shute Foundation in the UK (I live in Birmingham) as I would like to meet other people who share my interest in the work of Nevil Shute.

Editor's Comment:
1. I have heard this explanation of Marazan before. It seems likely as not only did Shute sail a lot but also I believe he had family in Cornwall and is thought to have holidayed in that area when he was young. I have never been able to find a large-scale map of The Scillie Islands to see which islands in Marazan were made up and how much really exists. 2. I have referred the question of the availability of DVD or PAL videotapes of On The Beach to Steph Gallagher in The UK. I would like to point out to owners of newer PAL VCRs that many of them will play NTSC tapes. NTSC is the American system and PAL is the UK, Australian, New Zealand system. So, in desperation, you might be able to buy a US tape and play it on a PAL machine if it is newer and the instructions indicate definitely that you can play NTSC tapes. 3. A UK 2004 mini conference is being planned. Please contact Steph Gallagher for details.

writes: Some of your readers may be interested to know that a book shop at The Entrance (NSW, North of Sydney, Australia) has quite a collection of Nevil Shute books, 14 of them in hard cover with dust jackets , & in pretty good condition despite their age.

There are 6 which are First Editions They are ...The Far Country, Requiem For a Wren, On The Beach, Stephen Morris, The Rainbow & the Rose and Trustee From The Toolroom.

The name of the shop is Richard's Old Bookshop 130a The Entrance Road, The Entrance. NSW 2261 Australia. Phone: +61 (2) 4332-2743. (No Email)

I'm not a collector but I know someone who is .. Art Cornell from USA. And in looking for a copy of So Disdained for him, I discovered these other books. Wish you all well. Evelyn Gualtieri.

Editor's Comment: Richard's is a truly great second hand bookshop. I go there at least once a month. Sadly Richard died suddenly in the prime of his life at the age of 58 in 2003. He is missed terribly. With an encyclopaedic knowledge and a great sense of humour, Richard was truly lovely man. Richard's widow, a charming and friendly woman who shares his great knowledge and love of books, now runs the shop to the same perfect standard.

Bruce McKenzie, our new US Librarian, has announced that the US Branch of the Nevil Shute Norway Foundation Lending Library is back up, running, and open for business. Bruce has cautioned that there may be some slight delays at first as he is still setting up his system, and all the materials have not yet been received. Loans may be arranged by writing to Please visit the Web Site Lending Library Page for more information.

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

Richard Waller writes: In your general quest to keep track of links to Nevil Shute you may be interested in the brief appearance of Shute in Harald Penrose's autobiography Adventure with Fate (Airlife Publishing). Penrose, for many years through the 30's,40's and 50's, was a renowned Test Pilot for Westland Aircraft.

Penrose writes that with Westland's future looking doubtful in 1935 he......answered an advertisement for a pilot to take charge of prototype flying at Airspeed and was summoned to this burgeoning company's new premises on the edge of Portsmouth's grassy aerodrome. Ushered to the Managing Director N.S.Norway, not yet famed as Nevil Shute the author, I was astonished to find that he stuttered badly.

P-P-Penrose....I n-n-know you've h-h-had some years of test flying b-b-but let me p-p-probe you a little. W-W-What do you say to landing at 100mph? Fifty years later Harald Penrose recounted this story to me and added that Shute was very disinclined to believe Penrose's assertion that it would be no problem with a proper length of runway.

Shute was strongly of the opinion that the speed would make judgment of the height too confusing.

Penrose added rather cautiously that Norway's reputation as a pilot was not terribly strong. (but find me a Test Pilot who admires a part timer's skill!)

For the record Penrose adds (in the autobiography) that Shute's stutter was less when the talk turned to sailing. (Penrose was offered the job, but turned it down. Tall and confidently capable George Errington was taken on) There is an echo here of the discussions recently on the site around the design of the AS31 and other comments about how to judge the landing of an aircraft.

Editor's Comment: I am very grateful to Richard Waller for this extra piece of information to add to the Shute puzzle. As we all know, Shute was fascinated with excellent pilots and remained in touch with Test Pilots George Errington and Harry Worrall both of whom he met again in Australian in the 1950s.

Perhaps it was precisely because Shute knew he was an indifferent and relatively inexperienced pilot (he said as much when writing of his flight to Australia) that he was able maintain the writers perspective and still remember with clarity the feelings and sensations that the expert soon takes for granted and would fail to comment on. I believe some of Shute's appeal is that he makes flying seem accessible, easy and yet challenging all at the same time. Certainly in The Rainbow and The Rose he is engrossing in his theme of an experienced and confident airline pilot who suddenly finds himself a little out of his depth in a small light plane. I also seem to remember Shute remarking that there was no point building a plane that only an experts could fly as it would inevitably be average people who would be at the controls. Then again my memory might be failing me and he may have been talking about special weapons in WW2 but the principle and the comment remain the same.

That completes this month's newsletter.

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

Nevil Shute Norway