Book Review

2005-01/Jan 1, 2005


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This month’s newsletter is 2 weeks late. I have moved house again, had a delay with the transfer of my broadband internet account, and been in China for a week so I hope you will all understand. Although at least one article may now be out of date I thought it better to send this out asap rather than re-edit.


Grady Jensen of Redding, CT, The USA writes:

My wife and I have been Nevil Shute devotees for many, many years and are looking forward to Cape Cod 2005.
Will there be any opportunities for Nevil Shute "show and tell" items?
I have two framed items, each with letters that NS wrote and signed, that I obtained some years ago from an autograph dealer in London. I'd be glad to bring these as part of any exhibit that might be planned.

Editor’s Comment: We have had displays at all the past conferences and I have no doubt Art Cornel will welcome all Shute-abilia including Shute-ographs.


Garry Cline of Washington State, The USA writes:

There are a few of us Shute readers here in the LaConner and Anacortes, Washington, USA, part of upper Puget Sound. The Anacortes library has a small selection of his books and some audio tapes made from them. I have a selection of his books, but not all of them, as well. Hard to have a favorite, but Trustee is one I treasure, and having once been an aircraft mech, Round The Bend as well.
Wishing you a very warm and happy holiday season.


Al Benkelman of Warrenton, VA. The USA writes:

I do reread the Nevil Shute books. I don't believe I had reread one for 6 months. I came in to rest after some chain saw yard work and throw a log on the fire (Virginia USA does not have your hot weather this time of year). I picked up "The Far Country" to relax with and then when I opened up my email there was the November Nevil Shute Letter. I hope to get up to your Cape Cod meet next Oct. Please keep me advised. I have been collecting and reading Nevil Shute books for over 50 years and they are like old friends that I can go back to after reading some "New" book with a convoluted plot. After a lifetime of reading I still feel Nevil Shute was the best 20th century storyteller. He had the knack of making any plot believable.

Editor’s Comment: Even those who are only vaguely considering going to Cape Cod should contact Art Cornel through the website page. Then Art can keep you informed and gently persuade you to definitely come.


John Anderson visited Bert Judge recently and writes:

Bert Judge worked for International Model Aircraft (IMA) during the War doing development work and inspection. IMA were kept very busy making aircraft recognition models as well as other models for the Air Ministry and other government departments.
Bert was involved in both the Target Glider and the Swallow smoke laying glider projects.
Just before the war Bert had built a 6-foot span model glider.
Shute was a friend of Joe Mansour, one of the founders of IMA, and came to him when looking for a target glider plane for the DMWD. When Shute saw Bert's model he decided that something similar would fit their requirements and he brought in Sydney Hansel to do the design work for the glider. The outcome was the Target Glider complete with launching catapult and a 1" rocket propulsion unit.
Bert recalls that Shute was a frequent visitor to IMA during these projects and was almost always with Alec Menhinick and Wren Frances Randall.
Wren Frances would drive them to the IMA factory and was shown how to trim the gliders for flight and how to launch them from the catapults. In turn she trained other Wrens who came under the overall direction of Menhinick.
One time Bert was sent up to Ardrossan in Scotland to help instruct the Wrens in setting up the target gliders and remembers a long, tedious wartime journey in overcrowded trains. Bert remembers that "Commander Norway suffered from a terrible stammer which tended to become more pronounced when he wanted to make a particular point and couldn't get the words out". At other times it was less pronounced but Bert says he struck him as a man under pressure at the time and relied a lot on Alec Menhinick to get things done and "Menhinick proved to be an excellent right hand man". On visits to IMA Shute would usually be accompanied by Joe Mansour. "They got on really well. Joe was a progressive and forward-thinking man".
Once, when Shute and Hansel came to IMA and wanted a centre section made in a hurry, 2 woodworkers were put onto the job and worked through the night to have it ready for the following day. Bert is sure that the first flight of the Swallow glider was at Farnborough. He was present when it was launched from its catapult track and it made a good level flight. He remembers that the noise both of the catapult rockets and the 4 rockets in the Swallow was quite awesome.
He was at one of the LCT trials of Swallow on the Beaulieu River when the Swallow crashed into the water after only a short flight. He recalls that the problem with the Swallow was that the link rod from the mechanical mouse in the tail became disconnected due to the tremendous acceleration on the launching ramp. Once this problem was identified and corrected the Swallow flew well. (Success came too late for D-Day - the official requirement was cancelled in July 1944). IMA made thousands of the Target Gliders and for the Swallow a central part of the factory at Morden was partitioned off and those involved were sworn to secrecy. Bert is surprised that he has never seen any mention in documentaries of the Swallow project and was most interested to have a copy of my piece on Nevil Shute and the DMWD. He met Shute only on his visits to the factory, and in connection with these projects. He had no idea at the time that Shute wrote novels; later when he read the novels he says he found it difficult to reconcile the man he met with his mental picture of the author of the novels. On a personal note Bert has been a keen model maker all his life both professionally and as a hobby. He had the distinction of winning the Wakefield Cup in the USA at the age of nineteen in 1936 (the Wakefield Cup, he explained, is to model aeroplane competition what the Davis Cup is to tennis). Bert was most hospitable and insisted on cooking me lunch. A widower, he lives on his own and does for himself despite failing eyesight. I just hope I'm as fit and active as he is when I get to his age.

Editor’s Comment: As I read this letter I was slowly coming to believe that Shute’s model making stemmed from his involvement with the Swallow and the Target Glider.
But then I realised that Shute lovingly described the half-models of the ships in Lonely Road, which he was writing in 1931, and now, as I write this, I also remember that Shute described owning hand made aircraft models as a child.
Well, it was a lovely theory while it lasted.


In response to last month’s article about Philip Davey’s difficulties getting a publisher for his book on the making of the film of On The Beach in Melbourne in 1959, founding Shutist John Henry has written, passing on the following links:

John writes:

Both of these companies do publishing on demand. They do this for a 1-time fee ranging from about US$300 to US$1,000 depending on book size, graphics and hand-holding desired. Once the book has been initially formatted, they can print a single copy or a couple hundred on demand.
They get the book an ISBN number, list it at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other sites and send the author a royalty based on a percentage of sales.
Unlike the traditional publisher, they don't care too much whether a book sells or not. They make their profit on the formatting charge along with each individual sale.

Editor’s Comment: I am sure many of us would-be writers will save those links for that time in the far off future when we finish our 1,500 page novelette.
Publisher disinterest in subjects that have an apparently small public interest is a common problem. I believe that the normal style of publisher has long since decided that they are only interested in relatively ‘sure things’.
I would never discourage anyone from doing Shute research or any other kind of research in a subject of similarly low current popular interest but I would certainly discourage their doing it on the assumption that a publisher will then gamble their real money on publishing the project.
After all, publishing involves the publisher actively investing their money and effort and time, up front, in a risky project.
I believe that in many ways, free sites like ours are further destroying the niche marketing of books on narrow subjects. This is good for some and bad for others. It’s great for the consumer who now gets heaps of information that is being researched and provided for free by us amateurs who work for the pure love of the subject but it is bad for the would-be professional writer who wishes to mine the same territory that has a relatively small audience.


Art and Joan Cornell write:

Plans for the Cape Cod Nevil Shute Gathering (CapeCod2005) to be held on Cape Cod from Sunday 2nd October to Thursday 6th October 2005 are continuing at a feverish pace. About 100 people have expressed a desire to attend. We are hoping for 125 to 150. The Cape Codder Resort in Hyannis, Massachusetts has been selected for the site of the event, starting with a Welcoming Reception and followed in the next four days with talks and a bus excursion of Cape Cod.
The speakers are all lined up and the excursion route has been decided.
We, however, are still searching for a notable Keynote Speaker at the Wednesday evening (5th October) clambake. Sometime in the spring we plan to issue a Press Release. We will send it to the New York Times, the Boston Globe and the Cape Cod Times. But what others? Please send us the e-mail or postal addresses of your favorite publications. Details on registering for the Gathering and making reservations at the Cape Codder Resort will be given in the 1st February 2005, newsletter. Stay with it; keep yourself posted. All attendees to the Gathering must have read An Old Captivity.
Be prepared because there will be a test given.

Editor’s Comment: Just to help you along, my wild guess is that the answer to the first question on An Old Captivity is: Nevil Shute.


Jenny Knowles of The UK writes:

I expect you have been wondering if the 'Requiem for a Wren' play was ever going to happen!! I have good news - Yes it is! It will be five performances over the days 3rd, 4th, 5th June 2005.
As the 6th is a Monday we have aimed for the dates closest to the 61st anniversary of D-Day. It will also mark the 50th anniversary of Exbury Gardens opening to the public.
We have permission for the scenes to take place in Exbury Gardens, Lepe beach and Gilbury Hard. These are the real locations for the preparation and dispatch of the D-Day landing forces. The audience will be travel from place to place in four veteran military troop carriers. On the journeys they will be 'briefed' on the operation, the logistics and possibly listen to historical broadcasts. When they arrive at the next scene the tarpaulin will be rolled up on one side of the truck and those seated with their backs to the scene will turn around to sit on straw bales in the middle of the truck.
I have found an experienced Director in Matt Fletcher and as soon as the New Year starts we shall be working out the scenes, script and logistics in detail and recruiting actors to audition for the production.
The audience numbers will be restricted by the vehicle insurance and space to 80 per performance. We already have keen interest here so I think it is going to be necessary for those who want to attend to pre-book the tickets. If you have any members who would like to stay in the area for the weekend I can give you details on hotel and B&B accommodation.

Editor’s Comment: Oh to be in England as soon as June is there ….


C. John Hill of Devon in the UK writes:

Several places neighbouring the city of Ottawa are mentioned in chapters 5 and 6 of ‘In the Wet’, but quite recently there’s been an important name-change to a nearby township. In chapter 5, the Canadian Prime Minister outlines the Queen’s itinerary:
‘She is to open the hydro-electric scheme at the Clearwater River and the new hospital in Vancouver, but after that there is nothing arranged and I hope she will have a long rest at Gatineau. It is very beautiful up in the Gatineau in the late fall and the colours of the maples will be wonderful this year, because we have had frost.’
Now, the town of Buckingham, Province of Quebec (east of the Liévre River) between the towns of Masson and Glen Almond, has been renamed Gatineau being absorbed into its conurbation. Gatineau was originally the name of a river, town and park reserve - in ‘In the Wet’, the area became the Queen’s residence whilst in eastern Canada.
What are the chances that NSN visited this area when researching information for ITW?

Editor’s Comment:
Shute visited Quebec in Canada with R100 in 1930 and later visited North America in 1939, 1947 and possibly more often up to 1953 when In The Wet was published so he was almost certainly writing from some experience. Sadly we have neither his old passports nor his itineraries for his many trips to know how often he went across to Canada but I feel fairly sure he was describing what he himself, or at worst, his Canadian friends, had seen.


John Herd of The UK writes:

I wish to thank you for your very interesting website dedicated to the life and works of Neville (sic.) Shute. If I may point out one small typographical error that appears on the following page:-
"Sunday October 05 1930 at 0210 : The Government's R100 crashes in flames at Beauvais, France. The airship program is now doomed. "
This should obviously read "R101".
Thank you again for the work you have put into this website - I have found it most fascinating.

Editor’s Comment: I can only say that however many times I proof read, the simplest mistakes always get through. I earnestly welcome corrections, new facts and any questions that throw up new lines of research.
Webmeister's Comment: I second Richard's sentiment, and this error has been corrected.


Chris Morton writes:

Are you aware that ABC TV is running a three part series on airships?
The first part was this evening. Just at the end was reference to R100 and R101. They will probably feature in next week’s episode.
Met another Shute fan today in the office of the organiser of the Australian Wooden Boat Show. He is a collector so I put him onto the website and Paper Tiger.

Editor’s Comment: Can any Australian readers record the next episode, which might show some new archive material of R100 ? The first show had a lot of excellent original film.
Part Two of this excellent, Australian–made series broadcasts on Wednesday January 05.
I will try to source the series, which will hopefully soon come out on DVD at ABC Shops. If it already available overseas please let me know.
People on the East Coast of America and in England and Europe must allow about 36 hours for traveling time and the buying of a TV set if they intend to get to Australia in time for next Wednesday’s programme.


Many thanks to everybody who sent me Christmas Cards and Year-End letters.
I am sure all our hearts are going out to all those suffering from the recent terrible tsunami disaster.
In spite of all this tragedy, I hope you all do your best to have a Happy New Year.

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