Book Review

2005-03/Mar 1, 2005


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John Anderson, who is researching the gliding torpedo Shute testing in 1939 - 1940 writes:

I received from the Imperial War Museum a video copy of their film MTE 601 "Burney Toraplane and Gosport". Some 15 minutes long, it contains footage of the assembly of the Toraplane, how the wings and tail unit were fixed to the torpedo. There are shots of the Toraplane mounted under a Fairey Swordfish aircraft and also film of a Swordfish taking off, and of trials themselves off the Isle of Wight.
Interestingly, footage from both the trial successes and some of the trial failures is included. Using the information from the N.A. files it is possible to put dates to some of the trials that were fimed. The film also contains something of an enigma, which I won't go into at present.
With the help of Andy Burgess, I am planning to transfer the film onto DVD and will thus be able to extract stills from it. My plan is to have this ready as part of my presentation at Cape Cod in October.

Editor's Comment: John's presentation promises to be a highlight of Cape Cod 2005. Shute's work on the Toraplane Gliding Torpedo provided him with much of the background for Landfall.


I have recently added about 35 new photos to the website Photo Album. You can now see new photos of Amy Johnson who was the real Brenda Marshall, an R100 Spider Joint, the Airspeed Envoy's stylish interior, more DMWD projects, Burketown that was the real Willstown, the Avro Atlantic that was the real Ceres, and many others. Being Oscar Season I would like to thank The Academy and my agent but most of all I would like to thank our webmaster Oren Wolfe who inserted all this material.


Jenny Knowles, whose finding a WW2 teacup saucer in the mud near Exbury House inspired her to produce a play of Requiem for a WREN, writes:

Yes the inscription is King George 6th.
I think the saucer would have been standard army/navy issue at the time.
It is very likely that it fell off a landing craft or tender boat. There is a passage in the novel that describes Janet having a cup of tea whilst visiting a landing craft.
Some of the Wrens I have spoken to remember the King's visit to the Solent during 'Operation Overlord'. They (being mere women) were suppose to keep out of sight during the his visit to HMS Mastodon - unthinkable in this day and age!
Some Wrens hid in the rhododendrons to get a glimpse of the King.
One Wren was crewing on the deck of a boat in the Solent when the King's craft went by. The escort launches were travelling so fast that they were making huge washes. This is not considerate or safe, and is always looked upon as very bad manners in rivers and busy sailing places. The poor Wren thought 'Here I am for it!' and looked at the cold water below. She managed to recover her balance and not fall off into the sea, but she felt very abashed at the amusement shown by the crew of the offending boat.

Editor's Comment: Those who might attend the play in June at Exbury House are asked to contact Jenny at:


Matt Sheild's letter last month about the collected works edition prompted several replies:

From Mike Marsh of Australia:

The books Matt has were a Collection distributed by Heron Books and were sold in South Africa, at least, by a Club, which if I'm not mistaken was something to do with the Readers Digest. You got one a month and after a while they said "for $x you can get all the rest" - which is what I did. I was a poverty stricken youth and the monthly R7,50 or whatever was a real fiscal challenge in those days, earning R200 a month, but I never missed one. It's a complete works with the two early books Stephen Morris and Pilotage in one, titled Stephen Morris. 23 books in all. My set is complete and a bit "well read" in places but I like it.

From Dan Telfair:

You are correct that this is the illustrated Heron editions collection. The set does not include Vinland, nor of course, The Seafarers. Issued sequentially as a sort of book club offering in the late 60s, they were printed in different versions, by different companies, and at different times. Some of the editions combined titles under a single cover, and in others, all were published separately. A complete set in good condition goes for around $400 USD. That really isn't much as it amounts to less than $20 a book - not much more than a modern paperback.

From Brian Flanagan of Australia:

Three volumes, including two of the four which contain two titles, are proving hard to obtain in Australia, but are very expensively available from dealers in the UK. The year of publication of the series isn't given, but apparently was probably 1969 or 1970. No bookseller with whom I have spoken or corresponded in either Australia or the UK knows whether the volumes were released as a set or one by one.

Editor's Comment: Some correspondents have been nicer than others about the collected works as there is some debate about the quality of the bindings and the illustrations. However, it is the only collected works we have and there can be no quibbling the quality of the writing as every time I open a Shute book to research the answer to a question I inevitably find myself reading instead of just scanning.


Dan Telfair writes:

Regarding altered states of conscience (drugs, injury, sleep deprivation, trances) producing psychic phenomena:
In addition to In the Wet and The Rainbow and the Rose
An Old Captivity
Donald Ross reliving his previous life as the young Scot slave.
No Highway
Elspeth locating the tail of the crashed reindeer while in a trance.
I think that Nevil used this particular device because he was ".. a hard nosed engineer who had the delightful capacity to believe six impossible things before breakfast" as he was described in Set Square. As an engineer, he knew that people are not normally capable of thought transference, time travel, etc. However, in his capacity to believe impossible things, he liked the idea of psychic phenomena. He used altered states of conscience to explain these extraordinary abilities in his books.


Ken England of Canberra, Australia writes

Just recently pay television here ran On The Beach. I don't have pay TV at home, I don't want Rupert Murdoch's hand in my pocket thanks, but I spotted it in a motel in Dubbo. Took me all of 30 seconds to work out what the film was though I hadn't seen it for the best part of 44 years. I still recalled the blind attached to the Morse key and the suicidal motor race.
Self-plagiarism is not at all uncommon. Classical musicians of the 18th century did it quite a bit I believe and I'm sure others did as well.
Old master painters sometimes used the same figures, postures and faces in more than two of their paintings.
Has anyone noticed that many of Shute's heroines have the initials "JP". Was this of any significance or just an accident? It's not only in The Far Country and ATLA that plot situations recur.
There are at least three novels (counting those) where the heroine and her eventual husband or at least fiance rescue someone from an incident in which the demon drink is somehow involved. Could well have been an incident from Shute's past?
"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'." wrote Perry Zamek.
My grandmother, born in the rural Australia of the 1890s of two Scots immigrants referred to Scotland as "home". Her daughter, my mother, born in the 1920s, never did.

Editor's Comment: In defence of Rupert Murdoch (as if he really needed my help), I have to say his mother is a lovely lady. When I was first trying to find Shute's home in Langwarrin I was directed to ask a local lady called Dame Elizabeth. I thought it would be some nice old duck who had been made a Dame for helping a charity but it turned out to be Dame Elizabeth Murdoch who is Rupert's mother. As a neighbour, Dame Elizabeth had known Shute in the 1950s and had also contributed to the building of the local church after Shute's death. Dame Elizabeth was very down to earth and friendly, had lovely roses, and directed me to Shute's home. In the rush I forgot to ask her for a free cable TV subscription.
Julian Smith pointed out in his biography of Shute that there suddenly appears a progression of characters whose initials are JP.
Shute's grandmother had written a children's book called The Adventures of Johnnie Pascoe. This explains Johnnie Pascoe in Rainbow and The Rose.
In The Seafarers the woman's name is Jean Porter. In Blind Understanding her name is Janet Payne and the male character is Prentice so even if she marries him she will be Janet Prentice and still a JP.

  • In A Town like Alice the name is Jean Paget.
  • In Requiem her name is Janet Prentice and she changes it to Jessie Proctor.
  • Finally in Rainbow, Johnnie Pascoe appears.
  • Even in Rainbow the theme continues as Johnnie Pascoe's first wife becomes Judy Pascoe.

Also of interest to some degree is what I scientifically call The Molly / Mary / Moira Thing.

  • In Lonely Road, Sixpence is Mollie / Mary Gordon.
  • In No Highway, Mr Honey's dead wife is Mary.
  • Is Moira in On The Beach also a Mary?
  • Peter Holmes' wife is also a Mary.
  • There is also David Anderson's mother Mary in In The Wet.
  • There is the aboriginal couple in Incident at Eucla. Her name is Mary.

Finally, Shute's mother's name was Mary. Of course, Mary has always been a popular name but is noteworthy that all these characters are good hearted and all are under some stress.


Each year, the Foundation funds and manages a "Nevil Shute Norway Excellence in Aviation Scholarship", where by one or more selected recipients are awarded a scholarship to further their education toward a career in aviation. In 2003, a scholarship was awarded to 19 year old Australian Ben Lawrence, an aspiring commercial pilot who is receiving flight training whilst pursuing a Business Degree at Swinburn University and working full time as a cinema projectionist. We have just received an update from Ben where he describes how he has benefited from the scholarship. Full details about the scholarship program and Ben's update can be found on the website at:


I received an email asking what the unexplained abbreviation DAJAD in The Chequer Board means. I found the answer on the internet. DAJAD stands for Deputy Assistant Judge Advocate General This made sense in context.


Julie Porter wrote me a long email in which she praised both Shute and Dickens. Her favourite Shute novel was Trustee with Round The Bend and No Highway close behind. Julie continues:

There are research centers in the San Francisco area that host some brilliant minds. At the same time we have our eccentrics. One eccentric was Dr. Gene Scott. Dr Scott had a "religious" TV station. One of the "Public access bands." His transmitter was on a mountain south of San Francisco, so the coverage was large. One of Dr. Scott's favorite topics was "Pyramidology" combined with the second coming. He would lecture for hours, wear multiple pairs of glasses, and draw charts and other graphs explaining it all including the date September 1994. Of course no one ever admitted watching the crazy guy on TV, but the coincidence is just too funny. Even more so that I just looked up the date in the volume to see the name of the narrator. Dr. Scott! Along comes September 1994 and there IS a cult in the aerospace community at the time and several hundred do not show up to work the stated day. The radio mentions this weird behavior of the scientists with no reference to the source that event or to why that particular date.

Editor's Comment: I was unable to verify that September 1994 is mentioned in No Highway as a significant date as the usual thing happened and my scanning became reading. Next time I study an author in depth I will make sure he is not so readable.


John Anderson writes:

When Mike Meehan and I were at BAE Heritage last summer we looked the files on the design of the Airspeed Ferry. During the design stage in 1931 it was evident that someone from Airspeed had made a visit to the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough. On the back of one of the calculation sheets whoever made the trip had added up the expenses in faint pencil (the handwriting is not Shute's). They were as follows:
  • Train York to King's Cross station (London) 1-11s-6d (1 pound 55 pence)
  • Train London to Farnborough 8s-6d (42 pence)
  • Taxi 2s-0d (10 pence)
  • Tube fare 1s-8d ( 9 pence)
  • Meals 6s-0d (30 pence)
  • Telegram 4s-5d (22 pence)
Total 2-14-1d (2 pounds 68 pence)
Not bad for a round trip of over 400 miles. A similar trip today would cost nearer 80 to 100 pounds.

Editor's Comment: This suggests that the Pound is currently worth about 1/32nd of its value in 1931. Here we have yet another good reason to go back in time with current Pounds or Dollars and buy up all the beachfront property and then nip forward in time to the early 1970s and invest in that nerdy Bill Gates startup software company.


From Robert Edwards :

I have just found your website and as a dedicated 'Shutist' am delighted with the content and the style. So I thought to thank you and make a small contribution by responding to the request to recommend authors with a similar approach to writing. I would list Robert Goddard. His novels are of an uneven quality and, to me, the earlier ones were the best. Having said that, I have enjoyed them all. Another author is Howard Spring; very old hat these days but he wrote books that I can return to and enjoy reading again after a few years. No one however has ever given me the same consistent level of enjoyment in reading a novel as Nevil Shute and I am grateful that people like yourselves work to ensure his work is not buried in neglect.


Dan Telfair writes:

A dear friend and dedicated Shutist, Jerre Schermerhorn, recently passed away.
Jerre and her husband Jim have contributed much to the Nevil Shute Norway Foundation, beginning with our first international gathering, the Centennial, in 1999 where they both worked tirelessly to ensure a successful event.
Since then, Jerre has transcribed a number of Nevil Shute manuscripts, including The Seafarers, which was published with a dedication to her in 2002, the first Nevil Shute book to be published in over forty years.
Jim produced the Aviation Section for our web site, and continues to serve as the Foundation Aviation Consultant.
The announcement of Jerre's passing follows:


Born September 10, 1931
Died January 29, 2005

Survived by: Husband James R. Schermerhorn, daughter Kim Taylor, son Eric Wilkinson, daughter Karen Schermerhorn, son Peter Schermerhorn, five grandchildren, and many, many friends.

Jerre's was an indomitable spirit, full of warmth and sympathy for others, and with a marvelous, puckish sense of humor. She was endlessly creative, and never hesitated to share her skills and insights with others. She affected others' lives profoundly. Jerre overcame many obstacles in her long, remarkable life. Many would have broken under the pressures she faced, or retreated into themselves. Jerre's spirit was tempered like fine steel by her challenges, growing stronger and shining brightly. Jerre passed away quietly at home, as she wished, with loved ones at hand. She was under hospice care, and we made her as comfortable as possible. Her pain was well-controlled, and she drifted away in her sleep. Jerre asked that no memorial service be held for her. Instead, she asked that her friends and family think about her, and remember all the good things and good times we've had with her. She's gone to join Julie and see what tricks they can get up to together--they're sure to be good ones! She will be sorely missed.
Karen Schermerhorn
p.s. I'm truly sorry it's taken me so long to get this message out. I've had difficulty with Jerre's computer (I think it misses her touch), and the only good way I could find to get the word out to her friends is through her own e-mail tool.
For those of you who are also Jim's friend, an update:
Jim's broken ankle stubbornly refused to heal, with the result that his foot was amputated on Friday, February 11. The surgery went well, and his surgeon expects a full recovery. When his leg has healed, he will be fitted with a prosthesis, and we hope he will then be able to relearn to walk. Jim is in Methodist Hospital in Sacramento (since 1/12), in room 307. For anyone who wishes to contact him, the phone number is 916-423-3000, then ask for the room. He's trying hard to keep his spirits up, but it is difficult for him to do so. It's been a very tough time for Jim.


Bob King writes:

The Shute group Northwest continues to grow. We now have six but can't believe that there's not more in this heavy boating, engineering, and aircraft area. Still no specific plans to meet regularly but that'll come in time. I'm thinking of a name for our outfit i.e. NWNSNAS - or the North West Nevil Shute Appreciation Society. How does that grab you?

Editor's Comment: Soon this group will have more members than initials. If you are in the Pacific Northwest and want to get together, drop Bob a line.


I have had more computer / email problems and lost this correspondent's name and address but they write: Some years ago I was turned on the TV late at night and got watching the end of a movie, black and white best I can remember, which after a few minutes I realized must be NSN's Requiem For A Wren / The Breaking Wave though I never saw the title. I've never been able to find it under either title in any film directory, and was interested, on discovering your fine website, that it had no mention of it either. Do you know anything about it?

Editor's Comment: Clearly there has been a lot of 'inspiration' going on amongst screenwriters over the years. We know of no official film version of Requiem For A Wren / The Breaking Wave.


Brian Flanagan of Queensland, Australia writes:

Many thanks for emailing the newsletters. I must admit to being extremely tempted to make the journey from Brisbane to the New Forest in June. I have been unable to obtain Airspeed, the Company And Its Aeroplanes by D.H. Middleton or The Death of Neville Norway by John Froland; do you think either of these, or the video of the 1980 mini-series production of A Town Like Alice will become available through the Australian library?

Editor's Comment: I found the Airspeed book in the State Library in Sydney but have never seen the other. Has anyone out there ever read The Death of Neville Norway? On our own website I found the following transcript of a talk by Shirley Norway about Neville Norway, a relative of Shute's who was murdered in the late 1830s. Shirley Norway is Nevil Shute's daughter.
Shirley Norway: 'So the family, to my knowledge next came to prominence with the murder. (Audience laughter.) Now what happened with the murder was that Neville Norway was riding home from market, and William and James Lightfoot leapt out of the hedge and did him foully to death and stole his money. They shot him, and made off with his money and they were later caught and convicted, and hanged.
And it was the day..., they were hanged in Bodmin, which is the capital of Cornwall, and it was the day the railroad opened, and it was also the last public hanging in Cornwall, and the place was packed. (Audience laughter.)
People coming in on the first train to see the last hanging!
Now, William and James Lightfoot had shot Neville Norway and hidden the gun on a beam in a barn.
OK. Now.... Meanwhile, John Norway was at sea off the coast of South Africa, and he had a really vivid dream one night, that William and James Lightfoot had leapt out of a hedge and shot his brother as he was returning from market, and taken the gun and hidden it on a beam in the barn! And the dream was so vivid that he had his captain ... he wrote an account of it and had his captain sign it. And... When he got back to England, six months later, he found that this had indeed transpired and his brother was no longer there, but the authorities had never been able to find the gun and he led them straight to it!

Editor's Further Comment: I suspect that this story from his own family helps explain some of Shute's willingness to believe in thought transference and revelation through dreams etc. I am embarrassed to say that although the story was on our own website I had been unaware of it till now.


Nancy Anderson wrote to Dan Telfair:
A big thankyou from St. Thomas' Vestry for the donation to our Window Restoration Appeal from the Nevil Shute Norway Foundation.
Later Nancy wrote that the Foundation's contribution had inspired more contributions.


Babette Hills of Colorado in the USA writes:

Chapter Founder and CC2005 Coordinator Art Cornell would like everyone to know that the Colorado Nevil Shute Chapter is an active, fun-loving group that meets in the Denver area.
Our latest gathering was in Littleton, Colorado, on Saturday, January 15, 2005.
The dozen regular members were joined by a surprise guest from England, Mark Gallagher, husband of HREM Steph Gallagher, coordinator of UK2003, visiting the area on business.
Each meeting is a rollicking Shute love-fest based on a chosen Shute title with pot-luck food, beverages, show-and-tell items, and comments all from the books.
Discussions are free-wheeling but mannerly. We have met three to four times a year since six of us (Art, Joan, Robert and Anne Wester, Babetts Hills and Susan Batross) met at OZ2001. We converted relatives, friends and internet emailers to join us. Members now include three generations of two families. Honored guests have included visitors from Las Vegas, Albuquerque, South Dakota, and Birmingham, England.
A sub-chapter was recently formed which meets between Shute Chapter gatherings. Three related Shute titles have been chosen to read and discuss. The group is considering calling itself the Heretic Society.
We have become friends who share love of books, food and thoughtful discussion. Candace Ruiz, daughter of Art and Joan, has created a Chapter website at: It includes a link to the minutes of some of our meetings on the Foundation website at
The next meeting of the Colorado Nevil Shute Chapter will be held in Central City, Colorado in June. We have selected Requiem for a Wren, for discussion.
The Heretic Society will meet in April and is reading Wings of Morning by Thomas Childers, a non-fiction book about an American WWII bomber and crew. Residents of and visitors to the Rocky Mountain region are invited.. Email Babette Hills for more information.
Several of us have been recruited to serve at the next International Gathering, Cape Cod 2005 in October. We look forward to meeting you there.


If you have a large or small local paper please contact Art Cornell for a press release to advertise Cape Cod 2005. Newspapers are always looking for stories so don't feel shy about calling yours. The conference could be of interest to both literary and travel editors. Contact Art Cornell for information about Cape Cod 2005.


Michael Walden of the Hillyard Owners Association writes with details of Shute's 40 foot Hillyard Schooner, Runagate:

RUNAGATE 15tons 1939 40'3" LOA. Reg 167767 is 'still around'.
Until July 2002, she was owned by Colin Henderson of Tyne & Wear.
She was then for sale. I do not know her present whereabouts.
Our records say she was owned by the author from 1939 until 1949.

Editor's Comment: I had harboured romantic hopes but a search of the Dunkirk Little Ships website showed that neither Runagate nor Skerdmore, Shute's previous yacht were involved with the Dunkirk evacuation.


John Anderson writes:

House of Stratus tell me that their website has been taken off line whilst it is being revamped and it should be back on line shortly.
They have taken some titles off their list but are keeping Nevil Shute (some of these are temporarily out of stock). Their UK postal address is:
House of Stratus Ltd, Thirsk, Yorkshire, YO7 3BX, UK
Their phone number is + 44 (0)1845 527700


Yesterday I returned to Sydney from a week in China. We are having lovely mild soft days with gentle and much-needed light rain. I have just fixed the last of my computer problems (touch wood) and hope not to lose any further emails. If I lost your email in the last month I apologise.
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