Book Review

2004-10/Oct 1, 2004


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Bruce A Clarke of Thailand writes to advise of the following Australian 'Broadcasting Commission (ABC) request:

What's your all-time favourite book? The ABC wants to know. As long as it has been published in English, you can nominate a novel, biography, history, a children's book, a collection of poems, essays or short stories, even a religious text or a lifestyle manual (a lifestyle manual? Must you?)
Tell our national broadcaster by October 22, online at

Bruce notes that registration is required to stop the cheats nominating more than once unless they are smart and have more than one email address. Bruce further notes that he has more than one email address.

Editor's Comment: With a federal election of worldwide significance in Australia this coming weekend and a smaller, though marginally interesting, contest underway in The USA as well as this Favourite Book vote, do as the Americans say: Vote Early and Vote Often.


Nev Feist of The UK writes:

I noticed that you had put my request for details on a book about the Department of Wheezers and Dodgers in the newsletter. Just in case any of your readers thought that I was named after Nevil Shute Norway but that my parents couldn't spell, I was born when Great Britain (we didn't call it the UK in those days) had a very popular Tory Prime Minister called Neville Chamberlain who was on friendly terms with Adolf Hitler the German Chancellor and who everyone at the time thought would save us from war by going over there and having a friendly chat.


Derek Hill, formerly of The UK and now of Sydney, Australia, writes:

A couple of MINOR corrections.
JETEX was the name of the tiny rocket engine for model planes - it wasn't the name of an aeroplane, as the text suggests.
I built an F86 Sabre (American fighter) in about 1953 - I think it was a Keil-Kraft kit, made out of balsa wood and tissue paper. The Jetex engine was mounted in the fuselage at the point of balance, protruding down and rearwards. Needless to say, after many hours of careful building, when the fuse was lit and the model launched into the sky, it went off like a rocket, promptly catching fire when about 20 feet into the air. By the time it landed, some one hundred yards away, it was burning merrily.
I didn't build another one.

The other TINY error ?

The British Government had three Ministries connected with war. The War Office (for the Army), the Admiralty (for the Navy), and the Air Ministry.

After the war, these Ministries continued in being. The War Office was in Whitehall, and the Admiralty, just off Trafalgar Square (Admiralty Arch is the one you drive under when entering Pall Mall from Trafalgar Square). The Air Ministry, being the newcomer, made do with a number of scattered offices around the Kingsway area. I remember going to the recruiting office in Kingsway in 1958, when I joined the RAF.

Such was the situation until the late sixties/early seventies, when after many years of continuing cuts in defence spending, another bout of bureaucracy from a socialist government saw the amalgamation of all three ministries into one - the Ministry of Defence.

The new MOD, of course, lost no time at all in trying to eradicate all traces of the former identities of the three services. So the classy RAF Blue of our vehicles became a drab NATO olive-green, we all had to use the same equipment in the interest of bulk purchasing - with predictable results. Things were designed to be suitable for everyone, and pleased no one.

For the RAF - the ignominy of having to surrender their shiny new purpose built offices on the Embankment, which they had only occupied for a few years. This became the new MOD HQ.

Parsimony proceeded apace with successive governments, with the 'joint' aircraft development programmes with other countries (must keep the cost down!). The resulting Tornado and Jaguar airframes were designed to a committee specification and are, at best, very ordinary aircraft. As original partners in these projects, our friends the French managed to shove their engines in these airframes, but avoided buying into the result. How surprising. We are now seeing the same process with the new Typhoon. Built by everyone, it's very late, very well over budget, and doesn't perform as it should. If it wasn't for the high standard of professionalism in the RAF, we wouldn't be able to match the other major Air Forces. End of beef.

Nothing has changed since NSN's day - you can imagine what HE would have said.

Editor's Comment: I wonder if the RAF considered putting Jetex engines into their later aircraft.


Keith Delarue of Australia writes about Shute's friend Alec Menhinick:

On the topic of Alec Menhinick, I can add a little more info about his time in Australia. I have this on my web site. I mention his time at DMWD here: Among other jobs in the UK, he was apparently a test-rider for Norton motorcycles.
In Australia, I am told that he drove Norway's Jaguar XK140 in some races. See more at:
Here's where I have a still unanswered question. There is documented evidence that Frances Norway also drove the Jaguar in at least one hill-climb event. I have a number of Peter D'Abbs photos on this web page, with someone in the Jaguar (wearing a helmet) that is most definitely not Nevil.
Peter is sure that it is Frances, but other people that knew both Frances and Alec are convinced that it is Alec. I would love someone to have a look and come up with some incontrovertible evidence as to who this is in the car!
I am also told that Alec's brother George worked at Repco in Melbourne - see Nevil driving a Repco car at: Finally, Alec was the stand-in driver for Fred Astaire in the Phillip Island filming of the Grand Prix scene in 'On the Beach'.


James Fricker of Australia writes that videos of A Town Like Alice can be bought through Crunch Cult Films in Australia. These are the Virginia McKenna 1956 version. The much sought after 1980 Bryan Brown, Helen Morse, Gordon Jackson version is still impossible to find.


John Anderson, the research fiend of Great Britain, who is now chasing down information on Sir Denistoun Burney writes:

Burney's full name was Charles Dennistoun Burney (with a 'u' in Dennistoun) but was referred to as Sir Dennis Burney. Among other things he was a Member of Parliament from 1922 to 1929, principally to try to exert political influence for his Airship scheme. This is, of course, right through the time R-100 was being designed and built.
Incidentally I have just found out that the National Archives have the monthly reports from the Airship Guarantee Company on the design and construction of R-100 from 1925 to 1929 that they were obliged to make to Cardington.
In 'Slide Rule' Shute makes clear that he held Burney in as high regard as he did Wallis.


Andy Burgess of the UK writes:

The Midlands Model Engineering Exhibition is to be held on the 16 to 21 October at the International Exhibition Centre, Donnington Park, near Derby, England. 10.30am to 5.30pm daily.
This is not the Model Engineering show of the Shute era, which has declined to a shadow of its former self, but is probably the best show in the country at this time.
If you want to see the sort of thing that Shute worked on and the tools and materials he would have used, take a trip to Donnington. You may also see many characters that remind you of Keith Stewart!!
With Trustee From the Toolroom the current favourite novel I thought there might be people interested in this.
More info at:


Neil Wynes Morse of my old home town of Canberra, Australia, writes:

In 1959 the Australian Citizenship Convention was held in Canberra. Three papers were prepared for distribution to delegates to the Convention. One of the three was 'The future population of Australia', by Nevil Shute Norway, B.A., F.R.Ae.S.

By way of explanation, the following is provided opposite the commencement of the text:

This paper has been prepared at the request of the Department of Immigration for discussion by delegates at the Australian Citizenship Convention. The views expressed in it are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the official views of the Department. This paper, with two others, is being distributed in advance for the private information of delegates to assist them in preparation of material on the subjects for discussion at the Convention.
Delegates are requested to treat the contents of the papers as confidential until after each has been presented to the Convention.

Editor's Comment: Neil sent me a copy of Shute's 17-page pamphlet that considers the population of Australia growing from 10 million in 1959 to 117 million in 2059.

Shute addresses what he sees as the major concerns: population growth through increasing childbirth rates and through immigration, Australia's industrial capacity, trade cooperation with New Zealand, cereal harvests, meat production and pasture improvement, coal, oil, water and the best eventual sources of immigrants.

Shute reveals that in 1951 he started buying up adjacent farms and that in 1959 he had 205 acres. His cleared dairy pastures totaled 130 acres. Earlier this land had supported 20 small Jersey cows and 5 heifers but with pasture improvements he now ran 42 large Friesian milking cows and many calves and vealers totaling 68 beasts. Sadly he doesn't reveal their names. Shute believed the land was still under stocked. In terms of weight of beasts he had quadrupled the capacity of the land.

Shute also had 300 pigs and talked of using wheat to feed pigs and meat consumption in general.

Shute then deals with water and suggests that population demand would stimulate improvements in desalination making it financially viable.

He then considers oil and brown coal as energy sources.

Next he turns to bringing the immigrants to Australia and points out the greater efficiencies of air transportation. In 1959 migrants still came by ship.

Shute points out that the supply of British and Western European migrants, who he seemed to feel were the easiest to assimilate, will soon dry up and that Australia should consider from where it could next obtain the best quality migrants.

Shute says that he visits the USA every other year and likes to spend a month driving in remote districts. His conclusion was that, as the economic differences between the countries equalized and as he expected that the USA would be almost full around now (2004), The USA might be a likely source of easily assimilated immigrants to Australia.

Finally, Shute attributed the high and rising achievement levels in a country as small as Australia to the high protein intake of Australians. He concluded that if the population outstripped the meat supply as it reached 100 million it would not necessarily be a bad thing an overly virile and strident nation might develop delusions of grandeur and seek a little world domination leading to war.

He seemed to think this would be a bad thing but I think the world would benefit from The New Australian World Order. (see, it's happening already. I will have to cut down on those steak and eggs breakfasts)


Andy Banta of Orangevale, CA, The USA writes:

I'm rereading 'A Town Like Alice' and decided to look at Shute's 'Flight Log ' and James Riddell's 'Flight of Fancy'. In particular, I was interested in the portion where Shute and Riddell hear about the group of women and children who were shuffled around Sumatra for 2 years during World War II. The first thing I find interesting is that according to Shute the numbers actually involved were much larger than what is portrayed in 'A Town Like Alice'; in his 'Flight Log' he says '80 other women and a large number of children'. Sadly, he goes on to say 'practically all the other women and children died'. More encouragingly he goes on to say 'She (the story teller) came out fit and well, and retained her sense of humor'. An obvious model for Jean Paget.
The other thing I find interesting is the difference in spelling of names. According to NSN the KLM representative who arranged for them to stay with the Shell executive was 'Nasse'. According to Riddell the KLM person was 'Nassar'. There is also a discrepancy on the spelling of the name of the Shell executive. According to Shute it is 'J. G. A. Geysel'; according to Riddell it is 'Reysel'. Can anyone shed some light on this matter. I'm well aware that it certainly isn't important but I'm curious.


Regarding the Portland Model and Home Engineering Show that was on the weekend of September 25-26, John Page of The USA writes :

I'm going to try to get down to the show. Maybe I'll conduct a little informal poll and ask folks if they ever heard about Trustee and its author.

Editor's Comments: I hope John got there. I would love to hear the results of his Pop Survey.


Herb Friedman & Ada Kera Friedman write:

We are researching a magazine article on the high speed single engine commercial aircraft that flourished in the United States during the late 1920s and early 1930s. Your reference to the inspiration supplied by the photo in The Aeroplane suggests a link between the two countries that, up to then, had such different design philosophies.
H. A. Taylor refers to the link on p. 41 of Airspeed Aircraft Since 1931 but terms the story possibly 'apocryphal.' We would be most grateful if you could supply us with any further information or sources?

Editor's Comment: I replied that as I understood the story to come from Nevil Shute himself it could hardly be said to be apocryphal. Shute mentions the story in Slide Rule and I have always assumed that Shute and Tiltman, the two aeronautical brains behind Airspeed did actually see the article and make those decisions.

Also the chronology is correct as the below extracts from our timeline show. There was 18 months from the article to the first Courier delivery. More than enough time to design, build, test, produce and sell in those days. Also the article did come out at the exact time they were deciding what to build and how.

1931 March: Shute joins up with Hessel Tiltman, (Now Sir) Alan Cobham and Lord Grimthorpe to be Joint Managing Director of Airspeed. Shute invents the Airspeed name in his room at the St Leonards club in York though his authorship is later disputed. The alternate story was that Shute decided the name should start with an A and Miriam Tiltman came up with Airspeed.

1931 March: The Lockheed Orion appears with the first retractable landing gear on a commercial aeroplane. On seeing a picture on page 990 of The Aeroplane magazine of May 27 1931 Shute and Tiltman are convinced that their new designs must have this feature.

1933 September: First Courier delivered to dealers. The last Courier, GACVF, flew in 1947.

Herb and Ada then generously shared some newspaper cuttings about the Airspeed Courier which will soon appear in the website Photo Album.


Bert Judge who worked with Shute on the Target Glider mentioned in the last newsletter is still with us. John Anderson is planning to interview him soon.


Art and Joan Cornell write:

Plans for the fourth Gathering (CapeCod2005) of Nevil Shute enthusiasts on Cape Cod from October 2 to 6, 2005 continue at a rapid rate. As this is written, the event is just one year away. The weather is beautifully warm and sunny. Even a great white whale is hanging around in the warm Cape Cod waters. The three local chapters (Cape Cod, New Jersey and Colorado) are in the process of planning special events at the Gathering. And then we (Joan and Art) will soon be concluding the final details of the Excursion Day.
So far 55 people have said they are certain to attend, another 26 say they are likely to attend and 16 say that maybe they will attend. That gives a total of 97 people interested in coming. That total does not include Cape Cod people who will volunteer to help with registration, etc., but will also be attending some of the activities. Each week we get a few more responses so that it appears the final attendance will be between 125 and 150.
We have 12 speakers and we are asking them to submit a one page abstract of their talks so that we can start planning the agenda. We would like to know about how long they expect their presentations to last and whether they will need visual aids. We suggest November 15 as a date for submission.
On Saturday, September 25 the Colorado Chapter of 14 members met and they have decided to conduct a special game at the Gathering. Details will remain a secret. On Sunday, September 26 the Cape Cod Chapter of nine members met and we showed them the items we had received at the English Gathering: 'My Full Name is Nevil Shute Norway' booklet and coffee mug; also the personalized bookmark to be use only when reading Nevil Shute novels. The members were duly impressed and inspired not to be outdone.
We have decided to use Shute's words, 'We Shall Remember Them' as our motto. The words refer to Haki and Hekja, but we include Nevil Shute and his novels.
We (Joan and Art) are on Cape Cod at this time but will be going back to our other home in Colorado at the end of November. We will return to Cape Cod about May 15. All business that we cannot do by e-mail will be taken care of before we leave.
Please let us know, as soon as you know, if you plan to attend. It will make our plans easier.

Editor's Comment: Cape Cod 2005 will be great fun. If you go you can tell your friends you had to attend a literary conference, which will make you, sound rather brainy. Don't miss it.


John Anderson, Mike Meehan and Andy Burgess will soon raid the UK National Archives and research further on R100, Airspeed and Sir Dennistoun Burney and the Toraplane and Doravane flying torpedoes.


Chris Phillips of Rome, Italy writes:

In your comment about the museum at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, you mentioned seeing the Avro Lancaster, and put 'Pastoral' in brackets.
I think you'll find that the aircraft that starred in Pastoral was the Vickers Wellington, popularly known as the 'Wimpey', which was designed by none other than NS's ex-boss on the R-100 project, Barnes Wallis. Wimpeys and Lancasters were both used very extensively during WW2, (Vickers built 11,400 Wimpeys and Avro 7,700 Lancs). I guess NS chose the Wimpey for this story set in 1942, mainly because the Lanc only became operational in early 1942, whereas the Wellington had been in service since before the war.
However, other factors might have been its association with Wallis, the fact that it had a reputation for being still flyable with great bits missing (Peter Marshall flies it back from Germany with 'half the ruddy wing missing ' and 'a hole in the rear fuselage you could walk through'), and because it fitted his plot requirements better, having only 2 engines (a 2-engined plane is more vulnerable, and more difficult to fly when damaged).
A Lanc is mentioned in Pastoral, when Marshall has to make a forced landing nearly out of fuel, and lands just in front of one (he has the rear-gunner tell him how close the Lanc is getting on the runway 'in case it bumps us up the arse').

Editor's Comment: Sometimes we editors write something incredibly foolish just to see if you are all paying attention. Unfortunately this wasn't one of those times. Of course, Chris is absolutely right.


Ian Anderson writes:

In 'A town like Alice' Joe is invited onto a BBC radio programme called 'In Town Tonight' where he gives an account of life on a homestead in the Gulf Country.

I assumed that this programme was fictitious. I was surprised therefore when this programme was mentioned on a recent radio programme in the UK. This raises a few interesting questions, such as did NS ever appear on such a programme, and if he did does the transcript, or even better, a recording exist? Can anyone shed any light on this?

Editor's Comment: I have tried to find recordings of Shute but so far no luck. If someone ever finds one I will award a valuable prize of a tiny nail from Shute's now extinct aeroplane, Item Willie. Unsubstantiated recordings of someone with a badly imitated and patently false English accent pretending to stutter that are entered solely to obtain this valuable nail will be ruthlessly ignored.


In the course of research trying to find the 1930s Boeing 247 crash that is thought to have led Shute to eventually write No Highway in the 1940s led me to the fascinating, if rather black, site:

On October 08 1947 the following happened:

As a prank, a captain riding in the jump seat engaged the gust lock in flight. The command pilot, not knowing the gust lock had been engaged, rolled the elevator trim tab with no response. When the jump seat captain disengaged the gust lock, the aircraft went into a steep dive, executed part of an outside roll and become inverted. Neither the command nor jump seat captain had seat belts on and they accidentally feathered No. 1, 2 and 4 engines when they hit the controls with their heads. No one realized it at the time but the feathering reduced power and allowed the co-pilot, who was strapped in, to pull out of the dive 350 feet from the ground.


David Argent of Australia writes:

Is there any information at all about the progress of 'Incident at Eucla' at the time of Nevil Shute's death?
I know he considered 'Stephen Morris' to be unpublishable, which turned out to be a solid read. 'Eucla' sounded like a 'Round the Bend' type of epic book and any hint of what form it was taking would be fascinating.

Editor's Comment: Here is a very, very long answer to a very short question.

Incident at Eucla stopped at page 30 before it really got going so I doubt it would ever be released. Having had the incredible thrill of handling the original typed manuscript at The National Library at Canberra, I can pass on my notes about the document. Naturally my notes can't convey the high quality of the writing but they do list the things that struck me at the time.

Before the typed 30 pages of manuscript come 8 pages of random and un-numbered handwritten notes from a notepad. These notes reveal a lot about the book that was never written. As in the other pre-writing notes from other Shute novels, the notes are sparse hints at what was forming in Shute's mind. Being notes they can be ideas he later expanded on or dropped completely or rearranged later. As the notes are not numbered we have no idea when they were written or in what order they were written. I suspect that some of them come from Shute's original 1954 trip to the outback that first resulted in Beyond The Black Stump.

In previous novels the pre-writing notes may have been changed, rearranged or deleted in the writing but at least they hint at where things might have gone. For example, the notes for The Far Country revealed a whole sub plot about Tim Archer's budding relationship with Tamara Perediak that was entirely dropped in the finished novel.

Here is my version of the substance of the notes, in my own words, with my additional comments in brackets. Unless I rework this for months it will always be confusing to read and my deadline is already past so please be patient reading this. Because all the gaps were filled in by what was in Shute's mind the notes are naturally fragmentary.

The first note is the word 'Play' underlined. (This may have meant that this was first conceived as a play. This seems not impossible, as Shute had attempted at least 2 screenplays so a play would not be out of the question.)

Then come the words 'Nativity at Eucla. Rainy Season, roads bogged. Throughout the parallel is never drawn.'

A list of characters follows: A white girl, her half caste brother and a pedigree bull, a farmer and some pigs, an English boy called Colin Pierce, A grazier's manager taking a pregnant aboriginal girl to hospital, an Australian atomic physicist and an English politician looking for an atom bomb test site, and an American geologist and a man whose life has been ruined by dams being broken by floods and his sheep drowned.

The weather is bad and all must shelter indoors including the pigs.

The time of the novel in the notes is December 20 1954. (This reinforces, to me, my theory that the notes were originally made during Shute's 1954 trip around the outback that produced Beyond The Black Stump. I think he then saved them for later and used some of the ideas in On The Beach because the next note mentions a lecture about the dangers of atom bombs to the French Academy of Sciences. This speaks about the potential for acid rain, the cutting sunlight by dust that may stimulate rainfall as well as the dangers of radioactivity.)

Then come notes for 3 characters who are an English Treasury official, an atom scientist and an Army major who lives in Shute's old favourite home suburb of Ealing. These men are described as 'the Three Wise Men who bringing the gift of atomic warfare to Australia.'

A note then asks should the story be told in the first person by the security officer ?

More notes speculate on the groupings of the people and the vehicles and one note suggests grouping the pedigreed bull with 'Jimmie Edwards' and the aboriginal man and wife. Readers will remember that the real Jimmie Edwards was the basis for Joe Harman in A Town Like Alice. Shute became good friends with Jimmie.

Next is a suggested title called 'Nativity at Carbine' and notes about the distances between Ceduna and Carbine.

After that is a suggestion that the scientist meets a girl he had known when he was young and idealistic at Oxford.

Then a note says that the scientist has been working on immunity for radioactivity. He is going betray something I can't make out. The scientist then kills himself at the moment the baby is born.

The girl had treasured her memories of the scientist and is now disillusioned.

The girl then marries the ruined man in the dawn.

The notes now reveal that the security officer, who has fallen in love with the girl, tells the story. He has eavesdropped on the girl and the scientist's conversation with a radio microphone. Then comes the single word note 'Transistors.'

Notes about trains being stopped by flooding and heavy traffic are followed by a comment that the security officer is trying to discover the reason for the scientist's suicide and checks everyone he has spoken to.

The next page has a single intriguing note at the top 'Selling Lighthouses' and then goes on to an underlined title: 'Novel.'

The notes then suggest that the Three Wise Men brought the following gifts: oil to Australia through brown coal, water by magnetic distillation, and defence against radioactivity. There are calculations for the magnetic distillation process.

The Three Wise Men are British, American and Australian scientists.

The Australian scientist shoots himself at the end of Ceduna Jetty at night.

Then comes a title suggestion 'Incident at Eucla' then the following:

  • Details about heavily fleeced, rain soaked sheep and how they can lie down and not be able to get up and need massage. This can be a result of rain with no wind. The note says this is 'Cast' sheep.
  • Some lines of poetry that I can't make out at all.
  • the name William Donald Spear, Metal - Spearite 46, Company - John Grant Ltd
(the following is now very hard to read) Three miracles are suggested:
  1. Somehow 5 tins of Bully beef are made to make enough food for everyone stranded at Eucla.
  2. The Aboriginal couple's car, which is quite un-roadworthy goes over the worst flooded patches without incident.
  3. The 3rd miracle suggestion just has this line: 'I saw it. I was actually in the room and I saw it myself'.

Exactly what 'it' was is not explained.

Then comes the word Eucla and a hard to read sentence that suggests there was only one room where there was enough light for something to happen.

A list of characters
  • Spear, Constable
  • Steve Bracket, Tractor Driver
  • Don Foster, American mathematician
  • Benjamin C Heinfold, Religious ...
  • Peter Thorne, Stockman with Bull
  • Bert Duggan, Girl with Bull
  • Julie Newland, Couple with Landrace Pigs on their Honeymoon
  • John and Jill Foster, 6 (illegible) girls, Joe and Mary Stillson, Station Owner
  • Clive Maconachie and Sammy Two, ???
  • Mrs Mooney, 2 Motorcyclists riding (words illegible).
Here the notes end.

Now come the 30 typed pages. Again this is my abbreviated version, in my own words, of what is in the novel.

The first page is dated November 15 1959.

The novel begins with the narrator's wife having just died. The narrator is a very successful scientist who has invented an incredibly sharp and strong cutting edge. His name is William Donald Spear, the Metal is Spearite 46 and his company is called John Grant Ltd.

The use of a cyclotron is mentioned and the cutting edge is said to be 3 molecules thick.

Much of the first chapter deals with the details that one would have to arrange after the death of a spouse. The narrator speaks of his loneliness and he arranges for the disposal of his wife's personal effects, giving items and jewellery to friends.

It is intriguing to suggest that Shute seemed to be anticipating what would need to be done should he himself die. By this time he had had repeated heart and stroke trouble.

The narrator gives his wife's Morris motorcar to his sister. In The Far Country Jane Dorman got a Morris too. This led me to ask if Shute's wife Frances her drove a Morris. Fred Greenwood, the Shute's farm manager, said Frances had preferred French cars. However, I suspect that Shute had a lifelong fondness for Morris cars dating from his Oxford days. Morris started making cars in Oxford. In Steven Morris, a novel where the major characters, Steven Morris and Helen Riley, seem to be named after motorcars, Shute mentions seeing an un-named Morris building his cars late into the night.

The narrator's wife was at Somerville at Oxford.

Among the books the narrator clears up and disposes of are: The Wood Beyond The World, The Water of the Wondrous Isles and The Earthly Paradise by William Morris. The Earthly Paradise was the book Shute bought with some prize money he won at Oxford.

The narrator has a Jaguar motorcar, as did Shute.

The narrator lives at Low Bradfield 10 miles west of Sheffield in Yorkshire.

Shute seemed to have an abiding fondness for Yorkshire.

The narrator is 59, which was Shute's age at the time of writing.

The narrator says he worked for Vickers during the war. Shute worked for Vickers when he worked on R100.

As in several other 1950s novels, the sleeping drug Nembutal is mentioned.

Shute's daughter Heather has confirmed that Shute used Nembutal. It was a very popular and common sleeping pill at this time. Throughout Shute's life Shute's writing suggests that he often had trouble sleeping, no doubt part of having an active, inventive and restless mind.

For the first and only time in Shute's writing he mentions an electronic computer at a university. By this time computers had been around for 15 years. Not mentioning computers at all is particularly interesting as Shute was a scientist and had acted as a human computer on R100.

The narrator then travels to Perth in Western Australia and plans to drive east to Eucla.

The narrator stays at the Adelphi Hotel in Perth. Shute had stayed at the Adelphi Hotel in Kuala Lumpur. It seems there was once an Adelphi Hotel in Perth.

The agent for the narrator's company in Perth is a lean dark haired man in his 40s called Donald Anderson. In In The Wet, the aboriginal pilot David Anderson's father's name was Donald Anderson but I don't think these could possibly be related characters.

This plot of driving from Perth to Eucla first surfaces in notes Shute made for Beyond The Black Stump following a 1954 road trip around outback Australia but he must have then put the idea into cold storage for 5 years. The narrator buys a Holden (the Australian General Motors brand) station wagon. On his 1954 trip around the outback Shute drove a custom built Ford station wagon but he seemed to have changed allegiances in the intervening years although I understand Shute always had a Ford station wagon at home.

The narrator plans that when he gets to Ceduna, which is past Eucla, he will visit the crash site of his son's C47 (a military DC3), which crashed and burned at Ceduna station on February 16th 1943. The narrator's son was killed in the accident. The wreckage lay between the cattle loading ramp and the shed. In the 1930s Airspeed nearly made a deal to build DC3s (C47s) but finally decided against doing so.

To run his new car in before leaving Perth the narrator travels to Moora and Busselton.

Then he leaves for Ceduna. He overnights at Southern Cross, then travels to Kalgoolie, Coolgardie and overnights at Norseman. Along the way there is a lot of flooding.

He overnights again at Madura and goes to a cafe for steak and chips where he first sees the half-caste aboriginal couple. The girl is very pregnant. Joe works in building construction. (I assume he works with wood.) The narrator goes outside where he sees Sputnik 3 crossing the night sky.

(This is the star of the nativity story.)

The half-caste couple's names are Joseph and Mary. They are poor and driving an old 1935 Ford V8 Sedan in the same direction as the narrator. The narrator takes pity on them and buys them some decent tyres as theirs are bald and won't last the trip.

The time is May and it is early winter in Australia.

This date made me wonder about the debate about when Jesus was really born. Apparently there are many clues in the bible that suggest that suggest Jesus was not born in late December. On the other hand the Southern Hemisphere has opposite weather and the weather equivalent of December 25th is June 25th.

At Madura the narrator hears of an American driving to Eucla in a Ford Customline. It is 112 miles to Eucla. The narrator stops and talks to a policeman, Steve Brackett, who asks him to look out for the American. Later the narrator picks up the American, Ben Heimfeld, whose car is bogged and they travel on to Eucla. The American is based at the Woomera Rocket Range.

They arrive at Eucla, which consists of 2 buildings, a cottage, and the old Telegraph Station which is a large building being encroached by sand hills.

To get the various characters inside out of the torrential rain Shute invented a set of big double doors that, in reality, the Telegraph Station never had.

At the Telegraph Station the narrator and Ben Heimfeld meet Julie Newland, a 25 year old daughter of a station owner and her assistant, the older, powerful head stockman called Bert Duggan.

They are taking Ferdinand, the prize bull, to their cattle station (ranch).

Julie and Bert argue with the Telegraph Station caretaker woman about getting the bull into the Telegraph Station and out of the rain.

They decide to take him in anyway.

(This instantly turns the Telegraph Station into a barn giving the new Jesus a chance to be born in a manger.)

Next a utility (pickup truck) with 3 Landrace pigs (Shute raised Landrace pigs at Langwarrin) begins to move in.

A lot of women who are described as actresses and who are already inside begin to protest loudly about the bull and the pigs.

The narrator looks at the pigs.

The last sentences are:

'I glanced into the truck-like back of the vehicle as I passed. There were three pigs in it, the longest pigs that I had ever seen. The lad in the check shirt was closing the big doors with Bert Duggan.

There was a fluffy haired young girl with them, helping somewhat ineffectually and she was weeping, the tears running quietly down her cheeks.'

The manuscript ends there. It was an enjoyable read and would have been a good book.


Dan Telfair always talks of Shute coincidences.

Recently I had my 50th birthday and moved house at the same time. The name of my new apartment building seemed familiar but I was so overwhelmed at turning 50 I couldn't quite make the connection. I knew that now I was 50 I would soon no longer be a golden haired youth. Soon I would begin to see the first distant glimpse of middle age on the far horizon. (as we all know Middle Age now starts at 65) With all this angst going on it took a week for me to look at the apartment name again and realize that it was Leonora, which is the name of the Dorman's property in The Far Country. Finally I am living in a Shute novel. Life is now perfect.

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