Book Review

2005-02/Feb 1, 2005


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Whereas last month's newsletter was 2 weeks late, I am afraid February's newsletter is arriving 2 days early as I will be on a plane to the exotic and mystical East on Feb 01. Hope this finds you all well.


Ben Lawrence, who received a Nevil Shute Foundation scholarship to assist with his pilot training, has written to Heather Mayfield, Nevil Shute's daughter and a Nevil Shute Foundation Board member, with great news. Ben writes:

Since gaining my CPL, I have finished my degree in Business, and shortly afterwards underwent the selection process with Qantas for a place in their "stage two cadetship" scheme. I am thrilled to say that just yesterday received a call from Qantas, and I have been accepted!! The cadetship runs for roughly 6 months, during which I will complete my multi IFR rating and ATPLs, then a multi crew course. Once this is completed, cadets are offered 1.5 - 2 yrs "industry experience" with smaller regional airlines, flying anything from Brazilias in Australia to A320s out of Singapore. Then cadets are offered positions on Qantas mainline, long haul. I could be flying either the 747, A330, or the new A380 from 2007/2008!!! I would like to take the opportunity to say thankyou to the organisation for your support. In awarding the scholarship to me, you subtly let me know that I had the right attitude to go all the way and follow my dream. I stayed focussed and committed, and now I have a fantastic opportunity laid down in front of me. There will be a lot more hard work to come (probably more intense than much of what I have already undertaken), but I will be content in knowing that my efforts will be perfectly tailored to achieving my goal.

Editor's Comment: I am sure we all wish Ben the best of luck with the next stage of his career. What next? Flying The Queen around?


Derek Hill from NW AUTFOD writes:

Hi Cinematographer Extraordinaire
The airships programme is out on DVD as of last week. I have watched it all.
Mostly about Zeppelins alas - they devote all of 5 mins to R100/101, and completely miss all the politics associated with their development and why R101 was such a dog.


Julian Stargardt of Hong Kong writes:

I just read Michael Crichton's Airframe which in subject matter, incident and plot seems inspired by and loosely based on No Highway.
As in No Highway the hero is a recently promoted mid-rank manager responsible for incident investigation at a major aircraft manufacturer.
Like Shute, Crichton's hero is under pressure from superiors and under time constraints to find a plausible cause of and solution to the problem in hand which affects a basically successful aircraft.
Again like Shute, the hero finds the real cause against the odds.
Regrettably there is no credit to Shute for his ground-breaking work with No Highway, which as far as I know is the first literary work to deal seriously with airframe and air-safety issues.
It would have been a simple matter for one of the characters to say something along the lines of: "As Nevil Shute wrote back in 1948 No Highway..." or to credit Shute in a brief preface or end note. But no, Crichton's silent on the matter.
It annoys me to see plagiarism from anyone, especially someone who is so successful he doesn't need to plagiarize.
Perhaps Crichton suffers from Archer's Syndrome.
I wonder if any other of Shute's books have been plagiarized or more politely, a source of inspiration for other authors?
From Hong Kong with best wishes for a Happy & Prosperous New Year,

Editor's Comment: I like to think that Michael Crichton was unconsciously influenced.
In fact, Shute actually plagiarized himself a couple of times. He once remarked how few people noticed that the plots of A Town Like Alice and he Far Country were almost identical in that an inheritance allows a young woman to start a new life in Australia. He also pointed out that many similar elements were in Requiem only it had a sad ending


Jim Cavanaugh from Whidbey Island, Washington, USA writes:

I am a great fan of NSN books. I re read them every 3-5 years.
I'm presently recovering from extensive back surgery, and am at a loss for reading material. Would you please ask addressees to the Newsletter for suggestions of "similar" authors and books? You may include my e-mail address for direct referral from Newsletter readers.

Editor's Comment: I am sure our readers will shower Jim with Shute-like authors.
For me, Shute is set far apart from anyone writing on similar subjects or in a similar style. However, Jim's email gives me the license to recommend the few authors I love almost as much as Shute.
Although they hardly seem relevant at first, my first choices are the writings of Winston Churchill, Len Deighton and Evelyn Waugh.

I recommend Churchill because he mostly writes of his own experience and was always in the thick of things. It is fantastic to read his lively contemporary, on the spot reports of The Battle of Omdurman and The Boer War in My Early Life, and his histories of WW1 and WW2 when he was both a principle player and a participating historian are great. Churchill once told Roosevelt that they would both be favourably treated by History because Churchill was going to make sure that he wrote it.
In case you still think Churchill might be a bit dry, part of his fabulous History of the Second World War describes the period when France had been soundly beaten and the British Army had fled from Dunkirk. Now, completely alone, Britain was facing a possible Nazi invasion. Churchill relates that the doorman at one of the Armed Services clubs was heard to console a downcast member by saying: "Anyhow, sir, at least we're in the final, and it is to be played on the home ground."

I recommend Len Deighton because he wrote heavily researched, lively, intelligent and witty novels of the British Secret Service and WW2. I recommend you read his English based spy novels in order starting with The Ipcress File, then his English WW2 books starting with Bomber.

Finally I suggest Evelyn Waugh because of his superbly elegant writing. Don't be misled by my use of the word 'elegant'. I don't mean awful flowery writing like some writers who spend two pages describing the breeze-blown curtains in an over-art-directed room before someone entered it. Waugh's Sword of Honour WW2 trilogy, recently made into a BBC miniseries with a horribly miscast lead actor, is a great set of novels. Waugh's lesser-known travel books are excellent and based on his extensive African war reporting in the 1930s. Of course, Brideshead Revisited, with some perfectly justified flowery passages, is almost perfect.


Jim Cavanaugh then wrote again with:

Why did NSN serve in the RNVR during WWII?
One would think he'd have preferred the RAFVR. Perhaps the RAF did not accept volunteers of age of 40 or older? Who knows?

Editor's Comment: Shute had been a dedicated yachtsman since Oxford and I suspect he well knew that flying in a war was a young man's game. Above all he sought NOT to fly a desk. This was why he was so angry when, only three days into his naval war service, while hoping to get command of a naval trawler or a minesweeper, he was drafted into a desk job with the DMWD.


Tony Woodward from Ottawa, Canada writes:

I was looking at the list of films on your site at
I deplore the fact that I cannot buy copies of either Pied Piper or Landfall commercially.
I have seen both on TV but this was many years ago and I did not, or was not then in a position to, tape them.
Pied Piper in particular is one of my favourite films and I have probably seen it three times.
However, this is not my question.
I could have sworn that I have also seen films based on his novels Pastoral and Ruined City (a fascinating book and I reread it frequently, especially in the light of his views on business expressed in his autobiography), yet you do not mention them. I would have seen them not in the cinema but on late night television here in Canada, and probably in the 1970s.
Were these examples of films made using his plots but not acknowledging the author, or am I just dreaming?
I can't remember the titles but they were probably changed, and it was only the fact that I know both the books well that allowed me to identify them.
Many of his books were crying out to be made into films, but Trustee from the Toolroom springs immediately to mind. This is another of his books that I reread every five years or so.

Editor's Comment: Yes. You were dreaming.
However, perhaps you are psychic as you mention the two novels that we definitely know were planned to be filmed but never were.
It was a film rights fee from a US production company for Ruined City that, along with his golden parachute from Airspeed, made Shute feel secure enough to become a professional writer.
From correspondence we also know that Shute was writing a screenplay based on Pastoral in 1945 just as WW2 ended. The director was to be Carol Reed, who later brilliantly directed Orson Wells and Joseph Cotton in The Third Man.
Sadly this project was dropped as it was decided by some idiot producer that, with the coming of peace, the public would now be sick of war films. Of course, highly successful WW2 movies were then made constantly for the next 30 years but Pastoral was left unmade.
The other unmade Shute-written screenplays we know of are the published-but-not-filmed Vinland The Good, which was a reworking of An Old Captivity's material, and a screenplay of Farewell Miss Julie Logan that Shute also worked on late in WW2.


David Vaughan, who has enjoyed his time as Professor of Business Communications at Qaboos University in Oman, is currently moving back to the USA.
David may deny this but it is obvious to me that he has uprooted his career, his wife and his household just to be more conveniently located for the Cape Cod 2005 conference later this year.
David will now be based in Dayton, Ohio, which according to my schoolboy's atlas here is only a couple of inches to the left and down a smidge from Cape Cod and so looks about 10 minutes drive in good traffic if he gets all the green lights and doesn't get caught at the stop sign outside McDonald's.
David has given fabulous talks at the last conferences and I wish him luck with his move.
I hope we will see him at Cape Cod.


Teri Souter of Huntsville, Ontario, Canada writes:

I thought I read the following quotation in a Nevil Shute novel, but I have reread the dozen or so I have and cannot find it. Can anyone help?
Here is the poorly paraphrased quote:
There is but one God though we all see him differently as light refracted through a prism, in many different colours
Can anyone please help me source and correct this quote? Am I losing my mind? Did I dream it?

Editor's Comment: Does this ring any bells with anyone?


Mike Naugle writes:

I'm exploring one theme in Shute's fiction, and, since it takes about three months for me to read a novel in Braille, I was wondering if you might be aware of any other of Shute's novels that employ a certain technique.
In In the Wet and in The Rainbow and the Rose, Shute allows the consciousness of the novel's true protagonist to transmit itself through the fatigue- or the illness-altered consciousness of the first-person narrator of the story.
This is a unique and a somewhat daring narrative method, and I'm wondering if you know of any other novel in which Shute does the same thing?
Thanks in advance for any help that you might be able to offer to me.

Editor's Comment: None springs to mind but you can see a simpler form of this in Requiem For A Wren in which the narrator reads the dead Wren's diary and so understands her deepest feelings. Shute seemed to like the idea that the narrator and the chief protagonist were two different people as it gave him more perspectives from which to relate the story. Mike then replied with:

I'm reading Round the Bend now, and while it doesn't involve a narrator whose consciousness has been altered for the sake of the protagonist's story, Round The Bend does fit in with what you said regarding Shute's liking of a narrator who exists separate from a protagonist. It's becoming more and more clear as I read that Connie, introduced as a youth and as a friend of the narrator Tom Cutter at the start of the novel, is turning into a prophet and is likely to be at least as important, if not more so, than the narrator is. Again, Shute's ability to carefully weave intricate strands together impresses me greatly, and makes me wonder how he could have been dismissed as a writer of what you have termed "airport" novels.


Neil Kermode from Bournemouth in The UK writes:

I have been an avid NS reader since my mother hooked me with Most Secret when I was at school in the 70s.
Recently I have been collecting 1st editions, and staggered across your web site this morning after another fruitless search on E_bay.
It was something of a revelation to find others so passionate about these marvellously well-crafted books! Wow!
I would be grateful if you would include me in the E-mail list as I feel I have just found friends I didn't know about!
I look forward to trawling back through your site and devouring the information you have collected.
Thanks again for all the hard work this site represents.
PS The Royal Bath Hotel in Bournemouth (as featured in Requiem ) has just had a long overdue facelift. If you want a photo then let me know.

Editor's Comment: From memory, In Requiem, Janet's father trains as an Observer for D-Day at The Royal Bath Hotel. I have asked Neil for the photo, preferably one from WW2 but he may need a Tardis for that. (US readers may not know that the Tardis was Dr Who's time machine. For a full explanation go to BBC's Dr. Who website )


Brian Flanigan of Australia writes:

It seems the suggestion on the website can regrettably no longer be followed.
I had this reply today from Nick Walker in response to an enquiry about ordering:
"I am sorry to say that we no longer represent House of Stratus. Please go to their website to order Shute."
Next discovery was that doesn't work, or not for me anyway.

Editor's Comment: I couldn't find them either. Maybe some of our readers in the publishing world know what has happened.


I recently found a DVD of On The Beach (1959) on sale in Sydney, Australia. It's nice to see that distributors are still bothering to put at least some of Shute's films into the latest formats.


St. Thomas' Anglican Parish in Langwarrin, whose church building Nevil helped to finance and who hosted the Nevil Shute memorial service during the OZ2001 conference, is holding a fund raising event to pay for repairs to the church building. One of the beautiful stained glass windows, along with its casement, has been damaged and is in need of repair. The ladies of the parish, those who worked long and unpaid hours as receptionists for us at OZ2001, and who also hosted our refreshments at the Dandenong picnic and the memorial service, are helping to raise the money through cook book sales. The cost of the book is $15 plus postage and handling $2.50 within Australia.
The Nevil Shute Norway Foundation has done our bit to help by donating $200 USD to the fund. Additional donations would be appreciated and may be sent to:
St.Thomas' Anglican Parish 185 North Road, Langwarrin, Vic, 3910 Australia.
You can contact Nancy Anderson at St Thomas at

Editor's Comment: As there is no grave of Nevil Shute, the font at St Thomas is, to my knowledge, the only existing memorial to Nevil Shute. I have no doubt that any surplus money raised will be well spent, in Shute's memory, on good works in his chosen community.


David Argent writes:

I am friends with an elderly author now residing in Western Australia.
Recently we were discussing Nevil Shute and it came out in the conversation that my friend has known Nevil Shute when both were members of a Writers/Authors Club in Melbourne in the 1950's. Naturally I asked what he was like and the description given was that he was "very English".
I wonder how this description fits in with any other comments from people who had met Nevil.

Editor's Comment: What was Shute like?
Most people who have been asked for our research say something like Reserved, or something like Very English. Initially this suggests Shute was quiet and conventional but he also had a fiercely independent nature and a very strong rebellious streak.
His novels show an understanding of humanity and a great sensitivity to emotions. He may not have displayed this sensitivity or his own emotions to outsiders he met in the course of daily life.
Australians like me and Americans who appear on Jerry Springer find an unwillingness to impart every part of your personal life to a taxi driver a Very English trait.
Some people who knew Shute remarked that, despite his stammer, he was a great raconteur while others say he was just quiet, unobtrusive but likeable.
Apparently women liked him.
People Shute worked with suggest he was a good manager although the subtext reads that for some he also seems to have been a very hard taskmaster. Again, his novels suggest he understood the nuances of work and management and personalities very well.
He also seems to have been rather dogged in his approach to work and there is some indication of an underlying iron will.
As he matured he clearly became very sure of himself and it seems that after the R101 disaster he appears to have decided to trust nobody but himself.
But what was he really like?
Even Shute's daughters seem unable to let us know in a way we find satisfying.
This is not so strange if you try the experiment of vividly accurately and fully describing your parent's characters to yourself in a couple of sentences. It just doesn't work unless they were really, really boring parents.
The more we learn about Shute the more we feel we really don't know.
If only some contemporary of his, who could write as well as Nevil Shute, had thought to write about him at length or, even better, follow him around everywhere with a couple of camera crews and interview him and make a 26 episode Reality TV show about him.
Where's that Tardis?


Matt Shields from, I assume, Australia writes:

I recently inherited from my grandfather a set of books, Nevil Shute complete works.
There are 16 books in total, all hardcover with red covers with gold trim.
Nobody in the family seems to know when he got them and there is nothing in the covers to say when they were printed.
In the back cover it says "this book, designed by William B Taylor is a production of Edito-Service S.A., Geneva Printed in France."
I would really appreciate it if you could tell me when they were as my father and I would love to know.
Any help in this matter will greatly appreciated.

Editor's Comment: I am not sure if Matt's set is complete or not as Shute wrote 24 or 25 books depending on how you count them. The best way to check is to go to the Bibliography section of the website and see what is missing.
Go to: We don't have a list of all the editions in which Shute has been published but I suspect this is the illustrated edition that came out in the late 1960s. Some of our bibliophile readers may wish to give us more information.
From memory, this set doesn't include his published screenplay of Vinland The Good but I would gladly welcome some real information from our experts.


From Perry Zamek :

I just found the Nevil Shute Foundation website, and I thought I'd add another item to the "Shute Music" article.
In In the Wet, Wing-Commander Anderson takes Miss Long dancing at the Dorchester, and the band finished with "God Save the Queen" at 2:00 am.

Editor's Comment: In Australia in the early 1960s, I remember standing up while they played God Save The Queen at the movies. Apparently, by then, this was not even done in England.
God save The Queen was also the Australian National Anthem until about 20 years ago.
No wonder Shute had commented that in the 1950s, young people who had been born in Australia would refer to a trip to England as 'going Home'.


Regular readers will know that on our website we have a tally of favourite Nevil Shute Novels.
At the time of writing, the top three novels were:

1st place  Trustee From The Toolroom  with 255 votes
2nd place  Round The Bend             with 232 votes
3rd place  A Town Like Alice          with 227 votes

However you have the power to influence this. Click on to find out more and place your vote.
If you have voted in the past, you can also change your vote by submitting a new set.
When you vote, just state that the new votes are to replace your old votes.
Just remember that unlike "In The Wet" multiple sets of votes are not allowed.


Jenny Knowles of the UK writes:

Wading in the thick mud of Beaulieu River I came across a buried saucer. I wiped the mud from the rim. The saucer was still white except for an orange, iron oxide stain below the glaze along one side. On its base I found the maker's crest stamped in green and below it the words 'G. VI R. 1944'. Looking up I could almost see the Wrens working on the hard, dressed in oily overalls, getting their tools together for the next trip in a small boat down river to service the landing craft guns. Then the idea came to me, 'why not stage a play of Nevil Shute's novel Requiem for a Wren in the places where the action actually happened?'
Nearly eighteen months later, with the involvement and enthusiasm of many people from the Rothschilds, owners of Exbury House, and Hon. W. Pease owner of Lepe House, to the keen Solent Military Vehicle Trust members, friends and colleagues who have rallied round and the talented actors from our local community, the idea is coming to fruition.
Nevil Shute wrote Requiem for a Wren in the first person, placing the author in the position of a young Australian pilot who feels compelled to find Janet after the war. I can't help but speculate that there was a real 'Janet' among the intelligent and lively Wrens at HMS Mastodon and maybe she caught the author's eye. There certainly was a Junkers that crashed on the 18th April 1944, and at the time Nevil Shute wrote 'I came on an enigma of this curious war, in a small country lane with fields on either side, very near the sea.'
The audience will drive by these fields as they move from the scenes at Exbury House to Lepe beach. They will cross the point where the burning Junkers engine crashed through the hedge, narrowly missing 'Tug' Wilson on his bicycle as he carried messages from one big house to another. The hedge has re-grown and only eye-witnesses know the spot now, but down on the beach, the concrete ramp and hard built in WW2 remain and the sea washes in and out just as it did 61 years ago.

Editor's Comment: Jenny also wrote that the play would run on June 3,4 and 5.
The play takes about 3 hours including a break and prices are 17.5 Pounds and 15 Pounds.
The audience will be transported to each scene in the play in WW2 period vehicles.
You can email Jenny at to ask questions and make bookings. Jenny can also advise on accommodation in the area.
It should be a terrific experience.
John Anderson tells me that Mike Meehan is co-coordinating a group visit of Shutists to the performance on the afternoon of Saturday 4th June.
This will be followed by drinks/dinner after the performance as a "micro" reunion.
There are rumours that some Shutists from the USA may also make the trip.
Jenny confirmed that 'G. VI R. 1944' stood for George 6 Rex 1944 or King George the 6th 1944. She feels it is likely that the saucer is British Navy china.


Bob King and Gary Cline are forming a new Nevil Shute book group in the Pacific Northwest of The USA.
So far they have about 5 members and will warmly welcome more.
Please contact Bob or Gary to join.


It's Summer here and the month of January is a traditional holiday time in Australia.
During this month it is illegal to worry about the future.
In Sydney we have the Sydney Festival celebrating all the arts during the long, hot, humid days and into the balmy, sea-breezed nights.
People swim a lot and then go to outdoor evening events like the popular Concerts Under the Stars.
We also have movies shows where people sit under the giant Moreton Bay Fig trees in harbour-side parks watching the films on huge screens built on barges floating on the water.
Then, when everyone is seated, comfortable, settled and ready, we have violent thunderstorms.
Hope you are all well and happy.

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