Book Review

2005-06/June 1, 2005


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Richard Michalak


It's time to register and get all your planning done as time is flying.


Steph Gallagher, quite overwhelmed by the single reply to her request for feedback about a website update, has asked me to reprint her request. This time I will send her 2 replies under false names just to cheer her up but she would really benefit more from hearing from you. Here is Steph's notice:

Dear friends,
There has been talk lately about re-organising sections of the website to make information easier to find.
I already have some ideas as to how this would work, however, before we undertake such a task, your thoughts and opinions are appreciated.
Therefore if you would like to drop me a line with your thoughts surrounding the following questions, I would be most grateful.
  • When searching for specific information, how easy is it to find what you are looking for?
  • Would you prefer fewer main headings with lots of sub headings underneath, or a longer list of main headings?
  • Are there any sections you would like to see added or deleted?
  • Are there any sections would you like to see combined?
  • Do you have any further comments about the site you would like to add?
Please send your thoughts to me directly at adding "Website Suggestions" to the subject line of your e-mail.
Many thanks, Steph


Nate Benedict of Friday Harbor, Washington, The USA writes:

In 1976 I was bringing a boat up our coast from San Francisco to Seattle and asked an old friend to go along as crew member. During the long hours at sea we talked of many things and in the process found that we were both Nevil Shute fans.
My friends name is Jim Haughian and is an ex U.S. Navy pilot. In the late 1940's he was stationed at the Navy Air Station on Trinidad and one Sunday pulled Officer of the Day duty and was whiling away a boring afternoon when the phone rang and the NCO told Jim it was some Englishman calling for Lieutenant Haughian. Jim answered and was asked if he were the James Haughian who had written a very nice letter to Mr. Shute. Answering in the affirmative, he was told that he was Mr. Shute's Secretary and that Mr. Shute had some hours between flights and wondered if it would be possible to meet him in town for a visit. Jim gave an enthusiastic "Yes" and grabbed the first Lieutenant Junior Grade that walked by and made him Officer of the Day, found a Jeep and headed downtown to spend some time with his favorite author.
It seems that Jim, being both a flyer and a mechanical engineer, felt a kinship with Mr. Shute, and having read every Nevil Shute book available, decided to write him and express his admiration.
It is testimony to Mr. Shute's character that he would remember the letter and effect such a personal answer as he happened to pass through Trinidad. Jim told me that they spent a couple of hours together at a hotel bar and that it proved to be one of the highlights of Jim's life. I wish I could have been there too!
I am looking forward to receiving the Newsletter and am delighted to have found this great website!

Editor's Comment: That would have been my dream come true.


Gary Cline has written:

I wonder if anyone would know if Nevil Shute's yachts (Runagate or Skerdmore) are around today?

Edito's Comment: We have traced Runagate up to 2002 and are chasing that last known owner. I am sure we will find Runagate still afloat but perhaps, with 66 years of repairs, it will be like the axe that has been in my family for 200 years and has only had 2 new heads and 5 new handles.


Patricia Lovell of Portsmouth, The UK was asking about some of the facts behind Most Secret and in the research may have found her father. Patricia writes:

I was interested in your account of Alec Menhinick.
I had not read The Secret War by Gerald Pawle for years, using it mainly as a reference book, and there it all was!
Lots of references to Menhinick and his wife, a Foreword to the book by Nevil Shute, a whole section on fire in use in wartime, and the WW1 tank which Menhinick restored whilst cooling his heels at HMS Excellent, and which demolished a small car on a run ashore to a pub!
It also has a photo of what looks remarkably like my Dad operating a Hedgehog apparatus (I know from his Naval record that he did in fact operate Hedgehog!)
So, without realising it, part of the truth - the bit about Most Secret and its inspiration - was on my bookshelf all the time.
I would still like to know about the snippet from the newspaper, though - did one of Shute's experiments go wrong, and the public were never told? Incidentally, reading further down your newsletter I came across an article which obviously refers to a previous one, and in Pawle's book I found the following:-
The melancholy objective of Force H was Oran; its resolute commander, ............. , was James Somerville. The "Instigator of Anti-Aircraft Wheezes and Dodges," as his ghost was to be known, never returned to the Admiralty, but, though they had lost their influential sponsor, his "Wheezers and Dodgers" were now getting well into their stride. So perhaps both terms were used, and both accepted as correct - the first referring to the inventions, the second to the inventors.
My late father joined the Royal Navy in 1932. Dad's service record has: 22 July 1944 HMS Verity Able Seaman, Hedgehog Roll Unit Operator, Ability, Good, so Pawle's book brought me quite near to my Dad.

Editor's Comment: The Hedgehog was a device which fired a pattern of small depth charges ahead of the ship. By war's end it had accounted for 50 submarines. It was developed in the DMWD while Shute was there.


The other day I googled Sir Charles Goodeve and was pleased to find better information than the last time. This time I noted that being born in 1904, Goodeve was 5 years younger than Shute and would have only been a youthful 35 when he took over the DMWD.
The excellent websites below have details about his life and work, a younger photo of Sir Charles, and also have a clear photo of the Hedgehog mentioned in the last article. Go to:


This year's Nevil Shute Foundation flying scholarship winner is Jeanne Campbell.
Jeanne has just achieved her commercial license and is about to commence her instructor rating. I am sure you will join me in congratulating Jeanne.


Regarding creating Shute-related bumper stickers, Beall Fowler of The USA writes:

I recently designed and had 10 copies made of a bumper sticker for the total cost of $26.95 U.S. The process was painless, the stickers arrived promptly, and I was more than satisfied. The vendor:


Richard Feynman was mentioned in the last newsletter as another Engineer Author. Mike Blamey of The UK writes:

I have read a biography of Richard Feynman describing his skill as a 'practical' Engineer in the creation of parts for scientific experiments: but I believe his actual qualification(s) were in pure science!
He was one of the Manhattan (Atom Bomb 1941-45) project 'team'- and was still 'active' at the time of the Challenger Shuttle disaster (late 80's). His practical demonstration of brittleness in a rubber 'O'ring subjected to cold (he bought one (and a G clamp)in a hardwhere store, 'borrowed' some ice from a motel and showed the result of squeezing the one with the other in the cold conditions as exactly what had occurred to start the shuttle disaster was a 'hit' at the Congressional Hearings.
In fact (as a consultant Engineer and textile technologist) I had some work with the firm Polycarbon Inc who made the 'nozzles' on the Booster rockets. Actually made (even though they were/are about 15 feet high and of similardiameter) from layers of carbonized viscose fabrics) Polycarbon were sub-contractors to Thiokol: the main producers of the rockets (which were interestingly 'solid' somewhat like Jetex!
I still have the scar on my finger from an early experiment as a 10 year old with a Jetex 'Engine' fixed in a vise rather than to a model plane!] It was well known within the engineers involved that the 'O' ring seals were likely to be a problem at low temperature: but as many subsequently testified they were told by management? to keep quiet.
Confirming one of my personal theories that if one attempts to break Nature's Laws, both detection and punishment are immediate: whereas man's laws are quite arbitrary and can be broken with impunity (and immunity!) provided one can buy 'protection'.


Jean Roberts of The UK writes:

Please could you tell me if, whilst you were compiling you came across anything about George Hartmann who, I believe was, for a time, Sir Alan Cobhams navigator.
I have been led to believe that he was French and navigated for him in either the late 1920's or early 1930's.
George Hartmann was my Grandfather but unfortunately, I didn't have the opportunity to meet him, but would love to find out anything I can about him, although to be honest, I am struggling a bit.

Editor's Comment: I contacted Harry Worrall's grand-niece whose research included a lot about Alan Cobham but she had no information on George Hartmann.
Harry Worrall also flew with Cobham and was Shute's archetypal pilot and an inspiration for The Rainbow and The Rose.
Does anyone out there know anything about George Hartman ?


Philippe Charuest of Canada has written:

(Try) Madame Édouard Bolduc - Biographies - The Virtual Gramophone.... I'm not sure if its the song you search that you call the St-Hubert song . "la Bolduc" was a very popular folk singer in Québec in the thirties. Of course its in French, and not the French of the "French Academy".

Editor's Comment:
I have heard at least 2 Canadian R100 songs in the past.
As I remember I liked this one best. The English one was a bit flat. To hear the better French song go to this address:
Information on the wonderful singer, Mary Travers Bolduc, can be found at:
Be warned that on this second page you must go up to the Œlisten' button at the top of the page to find a playable MP3 version of the songs. If you hit the buttons next to the songs you will get a strange and, for me, unplayable file format.


I wrote to Bob King for an update on this group.
Bob replied that the group includes a museum director, a steam engine collector, a retired airline pilot, a bookseller, an intelligence officer, a mechanical engineer and a retired dentist.
It sounds to me that with all those specialists they could set up their own Mission Impossible team. They could either sit around and discuss Shute books or, if they need a break, they could penetrate and destroy North Korea's nuclear arsenals and save the world. I hope they get to wear disguises.
The group hopes to meet again soon. Bob writes:

Recently I've been rereading the early books of Shute and really enjoying them.
I'm up to Pastoral and read that between 2 and 5 this am in bed. A most enjoyable way to spend idle hours in the middle of the night. At least I got them down in England, even though they pranged the airplane. But at least, they hit the pole with the already shot up left wing. When we flew a 182 RG turbo into the Oshkosh Meet we had to land the same way, just ahead of a 172 at the same time (about the 9,000th plane in 30 hours). I related well to the book then, tho we were under good control.
In the early books I've noticed how frequently Shute refers to cigarettes (they sat smoking in silence) and wonder if Shute himself wasn't a heavy smoker.
Bob later wrote:
Yesterday I finished rereading Pastoral - what a great book. I'd just reread it 2 years ago but always most enjoyable. Started on Landfall last night.
I did find a misprint or ???? in Pastoral - unusual.
After being shot up Marshall tested stall speed/handling (big part of left wing gone) and found it to be about 240 k. But on final said speed was 180 k.
Anybody got a comment on that ????

Editor's Comment: I contacted Heather Mayfield, Nevil Shute's daughter, and asked her if she thought of her father as a heavy smoker. Heather replied:

You know, I never thought to consider whether or not my Dad was a heavy smoker.
Certainly he smoked a pipe, and he had it with him most of the time, but, as is the habit with those things, it kept going out. I don't remember him smoking while driving. He didn't smoke cigarettes at all; however, he always had a cigar after dinner. I would probably describe him as a moderate smoker. My mother, too. She probably smoked a bit less than a pack a day.
I remember that, as a small child, it was always a great treat to be allowed to go down to the corner store and ask for "20 Players and a ha'penny change, please." I'm not sure if I had a shilling or sixpence in my hand. I don't remember him ever saying that he wanted to quit smoking. Remember, this was before the surgeon general's report of the mid '60's saying that smoking was bad for you and could lead to lung cancer. It was as much a part of his lifestyle as working in his workshop after dinner. Similarly, I don't remember any criticism when I started smoking at the age of 19 or so, or feeling that I had to hide that fact from my parents.


Laurie Edward of Australia writes:

I saw in a 2004 Newsletter a reference to a film which has a resemblance of Neville Shute's style. The film is "The Riddle of the Stinson". I would very much like to get a copy of a videotape of the movie if anyone has it It seems to be unavailable here in Australia. I think I have an inkling of the reasons.
If anyone can help me, my e-mail address is
I would be most grateful. I think I know the location in Daylesford, which I think I saw mentioned as a favourite writing place for Nevil Shute.


Tom Leitch has written:

Just discovered your site. I am a big fan of Shute. Any news on a DVD of the A Town Like Alice mini-series?

Editors Comment: I haven't seen one yet. Has anyone else?


Samantha Marshall of London, The UK writes:

Just stumbled upon your site. My mum introduced me to Nevil Shute's works as a teenager. As he's not "trendy" these days, I wondered how old your youngest fan/correspondent was (I'm 26 now).
My favourite is 'A Town Like Alice' which I adore, but I have a wonderful 3-in-1 volume inherited from my grandparents which is also well-read!

Editor's Comment: I suspect Samantha is hot contender but I hope there are more out there. Does anyone know if any Shute novels are still on school reading lists as On The Beach was in the USA a while back ?
With luck, Samantha may be able to convince some of her friends to try Shute and carry the appreciation of him on into the middle of the 21st Century. Shute did not believe he would be still read 100 years after his death but hopefully he was wrong.


William Laing is currently competing in ABC TV Australia's quiz show called The Einstein Factor. William's special subject is Nevil Shute's Australian books.
The show will air on the 25th of September this year.


I was fascinated to find this entry in an online dictionary:

Nevil Shute
English writer who settled in Norway after World War II (1899-1960)

Editor's Comment:
I can't wait to read his famous books:

  • A Town Like Oslo
  • On The Fjord
  • An Old Fjord
  • Beyond The Black Fjord
  • Ruined Fjord
  • Lonely Fjord
etc etc etc.


Right now The Discussion Page on the website is running red hot on which floatplane featured in An Old Captivity.
The latest candidate is a Lockheed Vega as proposed by Fred Erisman. There are pages of fascinating reading on this on the discussion page. I can't even begin to summarize it here but it will really grab you and includes references to the experiences of Amy Johnson as relating to those of Donald Ross in An Old Captivity.
Also proposed is a simulated flight using Microsoft Flight Simulator and a specially designed Lockheed Vega recreating the flight in An Old Captivity.
Go to and start reading. You won't be sorry you did.


Chris Phillips of Rome, Italy writes:

In your section on the contestants for the floatplane in "An Old Captivity",
I found two of the links didn't work.
Try these instead:
Fairchild 71:
Noorduyn Norseman:

Editor's Comments: These links have great pictures. You can easily imagine Donald and Alix in these planes. Seeing the pictures has really brought the novel to life for me again.


Dan Telfair, El Supremo Emeritus of The Nevil Shute Norway Foundation, writes:

Greetings Shutist Collectors and Others:
Some time ago, a Shutist Collector who had a dust jacket from one of the Cassel editions offered to share facsimile copies with anyone who might have the dust jackets from other Cassel editions. As I recall, we did not have much in the way of a response. Recently, another Shutist contacted me asking about the availability of scanned copies of Cassel dust covers. I have Cassel editions of all of the first four NSN novels. However, they are ex-library copies or private copies in rather worn condition. I do not have dust covers for any of them, and do not even know what the original dust covers looked like. It would be nice to have facsimile dust covers both to protect the books and to provide a glimpse of the originals. There is no intent here to pass these off as original dust covers, nor would the facsimile dust covers do anything to increase the value of less than pristine originals.
Would anyone who has original dust jackets, and who would be willing to share facsimiles with those of us who are not so fortunate, please contact me at or 505-856-6774. I would be more than happy to coordinate the exchanges between the haves and the have-nots.
As this would be something that would likely appeal to everyday (non-financially gifted) Shutists, any owner of original dust covers who would be willing to participate would be highly praised, eternally thanked, and would likely sit at the left/right hand of NSN in the world to come. Please let me hear from you.
Regards from The Land of Enchantment,


Adrian Crowe of Adelaide, Australia writes:

I have been building up a collection of Nevil Shute books over many years.
My collection of his novels is complete (as far as I can tell ­ Seafarers caught me by surprise), but there are still a few paperbacks which I would like to change for Heinemann editions. I also have James Riddell's Flight of Fancy (interesting, but not a favourite). I am still looking for a copy of Julian Smith's biography.
The reason for this letter is that I have several duplicates that I don't want:
  • Heinemann hardcover editions
    • A Town Like Alice
    • Trustee From The Toolroom
    • Beyond the Black Stump
    • Most Secret
    • The Rainbow and the Rose
    • No Highway (very scruffy)
  • Reprint Society hardcover
    • Requiem for a Wren
  • Book Club hardcover
    • The Far Country
  • Mandarin paperback
    • Marazan
  • Heron books (from the ³Nevil Shute ­ Complete Works² collection)
    • Most Secret
    • No Highway
    • Requiem for a Wren
    • An Old Captivity
    • The Far Country
    • The Rainbow and the Rose
    • A Town Like Alice
    • The Chequerboard
    • In the Wet
    • Pied Piper
    • Beyond the Black Stump
    • Trustee From The Toolroom
    • Ruined City/Landfall (one volume)
    • What happened to the Corbetts/Landfall (one volume)
Is there a reader in Adelaide who would like them? I'd get a few dollars for them in a bookshop, but I'd rather give them away to someone who appreciates Nevil Shute.
My father was the only other person I knew who liked Nevil's books, but he died a few months ago.


It's getting on for late Autumn here in Sydney but we continue having sunny blue days and cold clear nights. The drought we are in is very beautiful but when all the water runs out in 2 years it will be interesting to see a city of 4 million people reduced to getting water in buckets from a water cart at the corner of the street.

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