Book Review

2004-8/August 1, 2004


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Cape Cod has been selected as the location for the 2005 conference. Art and Joan Cornell will manage the event.

Art and Joan will welcome any assistance that you can offer. Please help by letting them know early on whether or not you would like to be a part of the speakers' program, and what topic you might like to present. It is not at all too early to let them know your probable intentions regarding attending the event.

Even if you don't see yourself as a speaker, and are not even sure you will attend, please drop Art and Joan an e-note, and let them know how much you appreciate their willingness to host Cape Cod 2005.

Art and Joan Cornell write:

When we were notified that we would manage the 2005 Gathering on Cape Cod, our Nevil Shute friend Joe Accrocco told us he had met a woman who was hosting a book club meeting and that they were reading An Old Captivity. He told her about Joan and me and we were invited to the meeting.

Today, July 19, we attended that meeting. The hostess had selected An Old Captivity because she had read the book and realized that her house overlooks Prince Cove where Donald Ross landed the seaplane. Their backyard porch has a perfect view of the cove as one would see it landing.

I brought the Haki/Hekja stone as I could not find a picture of it. The ladies, about ten of them, were enthralled that the stone existed. But I think they really guessed the true story even before I told them they could read all about it in the April 1, 2002 Nevil Shute Newsletter.

The hostess was a friend of David Clarke, whom we had met several years ago. Mr. Clarke was the man who had written a letter thirty years ago to the Cape Cod library asking if they knew anything about Nevil Shute's visit to Cape Cod in 1939. He was going to build a house on the cove where Shute wrote about a seaplane landing. He had read the book when he was a Japanese prisoner of war.

Joan and I told the women about the local Nevil Shute Chapters and the international Gatherings, including the one to be held here on Cape Cod in 2005. All these acts of fate have led us to believe we will have a superb Gathering in Aught Five and lots of help to make it successful.


Watch out for a 1987 Australian movie that several Shute fans have recommended as being very like a Shute novel. Called The Riddle of the Stinson it was made by Kennedy Miller, makers of the Mad Max films and many other high quality films and television productions. Starring our much-admired Australian actor Jack Thompson and a fine cast, it is about an aircraft crash and the search and rescue efforts that follow. While less well known in Australia, Shutists Nick and Jean Shapowal say that it has become something of a classic in the UK.


Mac Palmer writes:

In reply to J.B.Robert: Yes indeed on The Shepherd. It nestles perfectly in my library, among all the Shute treasures. I highly recommend it, not only for its suspenseful tale, but also as a curiosity, coming from such a writer as Forsyth. He's one of my favorites and usually has turned out great mysteries.

The book complements my collection of anything to do with aviation. That slim little tome is a real gripper for anyone with flying experience, particularly those of us who have spent a goodly time aloft flying in the clouds. As we know, they have been known to contain some rather large rocks. The illustrations in The Shepherd are truly outstanding.


Johan Bakker has written this reply to Janelle's query about the value of a First Edition of On The Beach.
Johan writes:

Valuations like this are always risky because so much depends on the exact condition of both the book and the dustwrapper, and also on fine distinctions about exactly what is, and is not, a 'first edition'. In addition, some mass-market 'book-club editions' are desperately hard to tell from a 'true' first edition, and yet are virtually worthless.

This website will give you the basics of ensuring that you have a Morrow first edition, and other pages on that site have high-quality images of how the book should look.

However, I will say that a 'true' Morrow first edition of On The Beach, in the condition you described, would be worth between $75 and $150. If you visit an antiquarian/specialty website like ABE ( you will find plenty of examples on offer in that price range. One example in brand-new, unread condition is being offered at $240.

For comparison, a 'true' UK first edition of On The Beach in good condition is presently offered on E-Bay and the bidding stands at $140. If you are looking to sell this for a worthy cause (as I understand it) you will get a fair offer and honest dealing from Fred Weiss at The Paper Tiger (

If you care to take a chance on E-Bay, I would list this with a reserve of $100. However, you should take advice and ensure that what you have is a true first edition, and also to understand the descriptive conventions about quality and condition that are used for books.


W. Mills Dyer, Jr. writes:

I've just finished a rapid read through (about 2 months) of all Shute fiction (except On The Beach, which I read once, but once is enough.) This is at least the 4th time I have read all of these books, but I had never read them through in sequence so rapidly. One thing I noted is that Shute often repeats a sentence or so within a page or two. Has anyone else noted this?

I also reread The Secret War 1939-45 by Gerald Pawle with forward by Nevil Shute; William Sloane Associates, Inc. New York, 1957, 297 pp., which is about the Department of Miscellaneous Weapons Development where NS worked during WWII. In trying to find a copy available for sale, I discovered that it was reprinted in paperback by Ballantine Books, New York, 351 pp., in 1967 as Secret Weapons of World War II. I purchased a copy from one of the used book sellers on Amazon. This book contains possible source material for at least two Shute works:

p. 42 hardback - p. 52 paperback

Of all the less orthodox methods put forward for discouraging German visitors the use of flame in various forms seemed to hold a special fascination for naval minds. Perhaps it was an obsession springing subconsciously from the far-away days of Drake and his fire ships. At any rate the view was widely held in naval circles that 'England will again be saved by fire,' and technical objections were brushed aside.... Eventually Goodeve's team were drawn into experiments with fire when someone discovered that a flotilla of Motor Torpedo Boats at Felixstowe were anxious to project jets of creosote at German E-boats. [Most Secret]

p. 237 [279]

From Westward Ho! they moved back to the South Coast for extensive sea trials under the supervision of Alec Menhinick. On the day of their arrival in the Solent the weather was foul, with blinding rain, and Menhinick, in charge of the rolling and pitching monster, was mightily relieved when a small landing-craft came out to Hamble Spit to meet them and help them to turn round in the river.... He was surprised to see that the crew of the landing craft consisted of two Wren ratings, and when the Alligator was safely moored he invited them aboard the LCT which was serving as parent ship to the amphibian. They looked as if they needed a hot drink, for they were soaked to the skin. One of them, known to her friends as 'Spiffy,' eventually arrived in the tiny wardroom of the tank-landing-craft. Her hair was plastered down with rain, her jersey and serge steamed gently in the reviving warmth of the small cabin, and the water dripped from a pair of tattered plimsolls on to the piece of matting proudly described as the wardroom carpet. She apologized for her bedraggled appearance, but Alec Menhinick thought she looked uncommonly attractive. A few weeks later they were married. [The Seafarers]

Editor's Comment: We are now trying to find out how well Shute knew Alec Menhinick and his wife. I am also hoping we can find a photo of the young Mrs Alec Menhinick for the photo album as she might reasonably be said to be a prototype Jean Porter in The Seafarers who later evolved into Janet Prentice in Requiem For A Wren.

Like the sentence repetition, I have noticed another Shute writing trait. When I was compiling a list of Shute locations I saw that he always fed you the accurate travel directions from A to B in small pieces and so built up the detail over several pages rather than in one lump.


Owen Hughes of Quebec, Canada sent in a review of An Old Captivity which can now be read on the website at:

Anyone who hasn't gone through the website thoroughly is encouraged to do so. It is a rewarding experience.

If I am not plagued by further computer problems in which carefully created files just disappear, I am planning to do a Timeline and Photo Album update soon.


John Anderson writes:

Early in July Mike Meehan and I visited British Aerospace Heritage at Farnborough in search of Airspeed Archive material, having been alerted to this source by our very own Newsletter Editor and historian.

BAe Heritage stores masses of archive material for all the aircraft companies that it has acquired over the years. They reckon to have over million drawings, tens of thousands of photographs as well as albums, books and files; and the material goes right back to the very early days of de Havilland.

Thanks to the enthusiastic and generous help of Barry Guess and Mike Fielding of BAe we did manage to unearth some nuggets relating to Airspeed and NSN.

So what did we find?

  • 2 photographs of Mr & Mrs Norway as guests at the de Havilland Garden Party held at White Waltham in May 1949
  • A complete file of original pencil-written stress calculations for the AS1 Tern Glider dated May 1931 in the handwriting of NSN.
  • Some additional photographs taken inside the Airspeed factory at Piccadilly, York e.g. a close up of the Ferry being built.
  • A photograph of the Tern Glider in flight
  • A whole scrapbook on Airspeed with sales information on Ferry, Courier, Envoy etc which included printed accounts and the Chairman's speech for the 1935 annual general meeting, a prospectus for the Airspeed Aeronautical College, a testimonial for the efficiency of the retractable undercarriage on the Envoy.
  • Many photographs of the Ferry, Courier, Envoy, Viceroy, etc and their variants.
  • A full list of all Airspeed projects with drawings giving brief details, dates of first flights etc
  • A full scrapbook of press cuttings relating to Airspeed

What didn't we find?

  • Minutes of Airspeed Board meetings
  • Factory records or log books or lists/photographs of personnel etc.

Barry Guess of BAe Archives & his team provided us not only with free photocopying and with an undertaking to scan items we marked up and put them on a CD ROM, but also with several cups of much-needed coffee. They did all this at no charge to us.

On the final afternoon we took our last digital photographs and photocopies, put the files and books back on the shelves to gather dust once more, said our farewells and reluctantly departed. We are both now completely hooked on this type of research and plan another assault on the National Archives in the autumn.

The fruits of this labour will be made available as and when we have digested it all and the CD ROM arrives.

For now we will settle for another RM Vegemite Research Award (the last one never arrived and is probably stale by now!)

John Anderson

Editor's Comment:

Luckily, like sump oil, Vegemite (an Australian, black, savoury spread) never really goes off and John and Mike's Vegemite Sandwich Awards for Nevil Shute research are in the mail. Sadly for the bread we could only afford sea mail.

The stress calculations for the Tern Glider are almost certainly the calculations Shute took along to Switzerland on his honeymoon with Frances. We have no wedding photos except a blurry photo in the background of a photo of Shute in his writing study which might be his wedding photo but also might be a photo of The King and The Queen - see:

but we do at least now have these honeymoon calculations.

The photo of The de Havilland Garden Party held at White Waltham on 9th May 1949 will hopefully be on the website soon. The caption in the album reads: 'Mrs Norway, Nevil Chute Norway, Mrs Pike, George Errington.' (another woman is un-named).

George Errington became one of Airspeeds Test Pilots in 1935 and later, in 1957, Errington met Shute again at Sydney airport when Errington was delivering an Airspeed aircraft to Australia. Shute was then leaving for a 'writing holiday' in Fiji. A few months earlier in 1957, Shute had been visited by his ideal pilot, Harry Worrall, who then died soon after Shute's return from Fiji. This confluence of meetings with two old test pilot friends and the death of one of them and Shute's trip to Fiji all seem to have rapidly coalesced into The Rainbow And The Rose which he began writing within a month or so of these events.

White Waltham aerodrome featured as the base for The Queens Flight in Shute's 1953 book In The Wet.

Mike Meehan then wrote to me saying:

Glad that you are of the same opinion as John and myself about the handwriting (being Shute's). When we opened the boxes and this folder in particular the hairs stood up on the back of my neck I can tell you. The White Waltham photos nicely join up a few things as you said. I'm wondering if NS saw them shooing the sheep of the airfield that day (when the Garden Party was on) a la In The Wet.

Editor's Comment Continues: John Anderson mentioned that the Board Meeting minutes were missing. Coincidently I recently received a copy of a letter that Shute sent to Hessell Tiltman in June 1954 with a copy of Slide Rule. In the letter Shute mentions he had reference to all the Airspeed Board Meeting minutes. Perhaps Shute had the only copy. It seems that these are now lost.

Sadly, John and Mike failed to unearth what I desired most: a photo of the two office secretaries who were sisters named Brunton. Shute wanted a proper office with no over-familiar use of first names so he insisted the sisters were addressed as Miss Brunton. To avoid confusion, the office staff started calling the sister who bred dogs 'Dogs' Brunton. Her name, Shute later recalled in Slide Rule, was then rapidly contracted to Bitch.


Norman Pasley writes:

In my quest to find people who knew NSN, I had an e-mail from a Mr Ken Heath from Lincolnshire on 30 May 2004. He responded to the message the Portsmouth News put on their website for me.

He mentioned his friend, Harry Cherry, who worked at Airspeed from 1932 to 1968.

This is what Ken had to say:

May I suggest you contact Mr Harry Cherry ........ He was an Aircraft Inspector at Portsmouth Airport 1932 to 1968. He is 102! but has all his faculties, still drives his own car.....he remembers all the pilots etc...

I drafted a letter to Harry but before sending it got the following e-mails from Ken on 22 June:

Some time ago I sent you details of one Harry Cherry who would have known Nevil Shute. Unfortunately he died on Sunday after 5 weeks in hospital and may not have replied to any letter.

I was very saddened by this and replied to Ken. Ken sent the following reply on 24 June:

Harry was the oldest one in the village. He had fond memories of Portsmouth, he lived in Wesley Grove, Hilsea, my family lived in Laburnum Grove ......... He was the oldest driver on the DVLA (Driver Vehicle Licensing Authority) books and was driving up until a few weeks ago.

Editor's Comment: Harry Cherry was only 3 years younger than Shute. It's strange to think that if Shute had the good fortune to have Harry's constitution he could have attended last years conference and driven us around to all his old haunts in the bus.


Herb Meyer writes:

I'm a long-time Nevil Shute fan, and I've only just discovered your marvelous Foundation. A few weeks back, I published an essay, at National Review Online, in which I used two quotes from Nevil Shute's Kindling,

Editor's Comment: Herb has offered his article for the website so I have passed it to Steph Gallagher who is our website manager. The content and arrangement of the website is ultimately Steph's responsibility. Steph is always considering improvements to the website so if you have any suggestions for the content or arrangement of the website please write in.

As is always the case, if your suggestions involve a lot of work, they will be always get more attention if you are simultaneously volunteering to help with the work.


Jane Loveday of The UK writes:

I have inherited a number of Nevil Shute books from my mother; I see that her copy of No Highway has been signed by the author. Is that rare, or commonplace?

Editor's Comment: I passed this on to my panel of experts and also asked them how a signature affects the value of a book.

Fred Weiss of Paper Tiger Books replied:

My impression is that he was somewhere 'in between'. He wasn't prolific but on the other hand they are not truly rare. But since collectors gobble them up pretty quickly, there are not a lot around at any given moment.

Johan Bakker replied:

I have about a dozen signed volumes, and I'm neither rich nor a fanatic collector. I don't think they are rare at all. A quick search of the better used-book websites throws up a dozen or more signed volumes of one sort or another. I've bought them off E-Bay.

As to prices - based only on my experience, I would say that a signature adds between US$250 and US$500 to the price of the volume without it.

So a US first edition of Ordeal, for example, is worth about US$125 or so. There's a signed copy for sale on Advanced Book Exchange with an asking price of US$550.

Now, an inscription ups the price quickly. An inscribed copy of Ruined City presented to a director of the shipbuilding firm with which Airspeed got entangled, went on E-Bay a couple of years ago for $1200. There's a signed volume inscribed from NSN to Charles Goodeve (his boss at DMWD) presently on offer at ABE for $2400.


Andy Banta of Orangevale, CA, The USA writes:

I recently came across a reference to which is an online encyclopedia where anyone can make submissions or edit whatever is there. Supposedly someone checks the editing for correctness. I looked up Nevil Shute and found a less than perfect article. I have the feeling some of the readers of the newsletter would like to do some editing.


With the huge increase in Spam it has been suggested we do not publish correspondent's addresses on the website version of this newsletter. We are considering this very seriously as it may help foil email address harvesting software.

In the interests of allowing you to write directly to each other on subjects in the newsletter, I will continue to include your address with your letter in the directly emailed version of the newsletter unless you specifically ask not to be identified.


Bob Adderly is in the process of compiling a very interesting and revealing document that surveys the flying episodes in Shute's novels. I have seen parts of a draft copy. With luck it will be appearing on the website whenever it is completed. Bob is not to feel any pressure just because all the readers are now looking at their watches and waiting to see his document.

Along the same lines I have been reading a great discussion on the website Discussion Page about the real aircraft on which Shute based his fictional Ceres Queen's Flight jet in the futuristic In The Wet. The discussion reveals much about the state of aircraft design at the time Shute wrote In The Wet.


Andrew Mills of The UK writes

My name is Andrew Mills and I live in London, England. I grew up in Melbourne, Australia a place I still call home.

My father bought a fishing shack on the Howqua River 400 metres upstream from Fred Fry's Hut (Billy Slim's place) in the late 1950s and knew Fred Fry well. He was told many stories of Nevil Shute's visit to the area in the Howqua and around Merrijig in, I believe, 1951 from Fred Fry and a couple of other locals. My father is an orthopaedic surgeon but in his university days worked for the forestry commission in the area which is how he came to know the Howqua River. He is also a keen fisherman. Very Zlinterish!

I was told about the book as a child but never read any of Shute's works until stumbling across On The Beach several months ago in Charing Cross Road, London. I then read A Town Like Alice and then managed to get a copy of The Far Country over eBay of all places. Imagine my surprise when I read the book which described the exact place I have had almost every family holiday since birth and in such accuracy that only the main town, Banbury, has a fictitious name (it is Mansfield that he is describing I believe). I wish to acknowledge what an amazing author Shute really was and that, in his own way, he took on major social issues and ignorance at a time when Australia was filled to the brim with unintellectual fools. We have much to thank the immigrant for and it has only recently been recognised that this is so. When I grew up in Melbourne they were far from accepted with the 'White Australians' referring to them as 'Wogs, Dagoes and Bastards'. I guess it took an immigrant to point this out but only and Englishman had the 'social power or standing' to achieve this goal and then it only worked on the educated middle class.

I recommend his books to anyone and, obviously, The Far Country will always be on my bookshelf.

Editor's Comment:

As Andrew says, Shute visited the Mt Buller area in early 1951. Shute stayed at the The Hunt Club Hotel at Merrijig for about 10 days. Shute used to sit on the verandah of the hotel making notes and drinking from a large jug of water. The schoolchildren on horseback who are mentioned in The Far Country rode past him each day to the school next door. In 2000 it was revealed that some of the children had thought that Shute was drinking whisky all day. Sadly the old wooden verandah pub has since been replaced by a 1970s structure.

Judy and Peter McCormack live on a property called Leonora at Merrijig, Victoria. In 1951 Peter met Shute who based Jack Dorman in The Far Country on Peter's father. Peter is a perfect Jack Dorman himself. Judy and Peter named their property Leonora AFTER Jack Dorman's property in the book. In 2000 Judy and Peter recalled that Shute was reserved but popular with the locals.

Shute also stayed at Fred Fry's Hut by the Howqua River. Fred Fry was virtually identical to Billy Slim. The hut and the surroundings are still there and are accurately described in The Far Country. The Howqua River is said to have been named after a brand of Tea.

Shute either saw or at least heard about the real map of the long disappeared town of Howqua. A few holiday houses have been built since Shute's visit in early 1951. On the map in the website photo album you can see the location of Billy Slim's Hut and also where the ford crossed the river below the steep hill mentioned in the novel. In The Far Country Shute placed a lot of the town on Billy Slim's side but in fact it was all on the hilly opposite bank. Parts of the wire rope bridge from which Charlie Zlinter fell with his dog were still there in the early 1970s.

Once inaccessible by normal vehicles, you can now drive to this location via Merrijig, Victoria.

You can see photos of Judy and Peter McCormack, The old Howqua Pub, Fred Fry's hut (Billy Slim's hut in the book) and the real map of long vanished town of The Howqua in the 1950-1960 section of the Photo Album in the Biography Section of the website at:

This is an attractive part of Australia to visit and Mansfield (accurately described but called Banbury in the book) is of additional interest to Australians as it is in Ned Kelly Country.

Visiting this location gave me my strangest Shute experience as, until I actually visited Merrijig and The Howqua, I had been convinced that this was one novel location that Shute had made up entirely.


I hope everybody is planning to attend the Cape Cod conference. Non-US Shutists should remember to check the price of Round The World tickets when they are booking, as it may be almost as cheap to see somewhere else on the way there or afterwards. Even if you don't currently think you can afford to go, do make some plans anyway as the Money God may then decide to provide you with funds when he sees that your needs are Shute-oriented.

Being freelance, my other Money God theory is that he will always wait till he sees your accounts are completely empty so there is plenty of room for more to go in.

Winter has arrived in Sydney and we have had some chilly evenings with the heaters going full blast.

Hope you are all well.

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