Book Review

2005-07/July 1, 2005


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Richard Michalak


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


On the 61st anniversary of D-Day Jenny Knowles finished a heroic many-months-long job by staging a wonderful play based on Requiem For A Wren.
Watching the play performed on the real locations from the novel, the audience were transported from scene to scene in WW2 vehicles. Luckiest of all, it rained on cue, reproducing the exact weather from 61 years ago.
I suspect Shute was doing a little stage-managing from above. Jenny Knowles writes:
It was quite an experience producing 'Requiem for a Wren' and running on 4 hours sleep a night for months!! Surprising what one can do when motivated and challenged, and it sure was a challenge.
At every turn arrangements seemed to disintegrate, from troop carriers (originally arranged last autumn), to insurance (originally detailed and quoted last autumn), to steps for the troop carriers (promised by the Army and withdrawn), to the tent for the beach (same as previous), to volunteers (otherwise engaged) and then the weather!!
However, we ended up with a wonderful and stoical team who soldiered on through a wet and windy weekend, to great effect!
The audience were enthralled and moved. Even the inclement weather worked in our favour, bringing back memories of the stormy day before D-Day and the real dangers and challenges that faced our brave troops when they left Lepe beach in 1944.

Editor's Comment: Shutist Susan Batross, who attended the event, met some Wrens who worked at Exbury in WW2. Susan was shown a photo of one of the Wren's dog called Mick which may have been an inspiration for the fictional Dev the dog in Requiem.
In reality there were no Ordnance Wrens at Exbury and there is little likelihood that Shute specifically modelled any of his Wrens in Requiem on the Wrens stationed at Exbury.
However, by a possible coincidence there actually was a Wren Prentice (now deceased) at Exbury. However her rating was Stoker.

Susan Batross writes:

I think the Play was fascinating and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The weather could have been a little better, especially for the cast, but many people at Lepe Beach commented that this is how the weather was that day. I felt more in touch with the period of time, than I might have on a beautiful sunny day.
We in the audience could feel what it must have been like to be there. I also had the pleasure of sitting with 4 of the Wrens, and talk to them about their recollections.
They all seemed to know Commander Norway. It was so thrilling for me to talk to them.

Editor's Further Comment: I found myself unexpectedly moved just by seeing some photos from the play. Stephanie Gallagher is hoping to organise a page for the website about the play. I will let you know when it is up.


David Argent of Australia writes:

Having re-read all of Nevil Shute's books, I have just read James Riddell's Flight of Fancy, mainly to pick up any references to Nevil Shute.
I did note that Nevil Shute gave some form of radio interview whilst in Australia, I think around 4th December 1948. How great would it be if a copy of this interview, or at least a transcript was available.
Does anyone know of anything?

Editor's Comments:
Sadly I had to tell David that I have searched for these tapes in the past with no results. Neither the ABC archives nor The Australian Film and Sound Archive hold any Shute recordings. Nor have I had any luck searching overseas.
However I am now often finding that a failed search last year can still become a successful search this year so if anyone wants to dig further they should give it a go.
So far we have no sound recordings of Shute at all and only have the odd tiny flicker of a small figure identified as Shute on film showing him trying to control the Grand Panjandrum.


Robert King wrote asking about the cause of Shute's death.
I replied to Robert that we understand that Shute died of a stroke. He had experienced a couple of lesser strokes prior to his death.
He also seems to have had a couple of heart attacks from the early 50s to his death in 1960.
From his writing I get the impression that Shute was fairly fit in his youth and a fair average in later years. He wrote of horse riding early every morning in the 1920s and then later he mentioned walking at least 2 miles every day to work on R100.
Of course he smoked as did most people then and from the books it appears that, like many people, he ate a normal diet at that time.
He actively promoted the consumption of red meat which he raised on his farm but we must remember that it was not until during WW2 before any real attention was paid to doctors who suggested that eggs and bacon every day might not be actually good for you.
Shute's health seemed to have steadily declined for his last few years and I think he suspected he wouldn't live to a ripe old age.
Having made his will he then immediately wrote The Trustee From The Toolroom which is about an inheritance. This indicates to me that his own mortality may have been on his mind.


Regarding a comment in an earlier newsletter that said:

In the early books I've noticed how frequently Shute refers to cigarettes (they sat smoking in silence).

W. Mills Dyer, Jr of Kingsport, Tennessee, The USA writes:
I agree that this occurs (as in "What Happened to the Corbetts" which I'm currently reading). However, I think this is just a normal "device" used in stories from that era. To confirm this, all you need to do is watch movies from the same era to see how much time is spent in smoking.

Editor's Comment: I think Mills is right. I find it a fascinating indicator how some things change in society. I suspect that in a modern novel they would sit silently sipping a cappuccino. However, having a cappuccino isn't half so visual an image.
It's pity smoking has declined because lots of smoke in bars sure looked good on film and it gave people something to do with their hands. The only real drawback was that it smelled bad and, well, sort of eventually killed you.
(please excuse that awful ³drawback² pun)


Joost Meulenbroek from Holland is currently trying to trace the last known (2002) owner of Runagate but keeps getting an answering machine.
Joost thinks he is off sailing Runagate.
I hope that Runagate's owner and his wife haven't taken it to Tahiti where they get shipwrecked. Meanwhile, their model engineer friend with whom they have boarded their little girl and who hid diamonds in the yacht for them ŠŠ.


Lillian Ruiz from Colorado USA has written:

I have been reading Nevil Shute books since I was 12 when my grandfather (Art Cornell) started the chapter in Denver. My two favorites are Pastoral and Round the Bend.

Editor's Comment: Lillian will attend Cape Cod and will speak about Shute and young readers.


Nick Yarrow of The UK writes:

The Riddle of the Stinson relates to O'Reilly's in the Lamington National Park on the Qld/NSW border (in Australia).
You can read a bit more about it at:
They may sell the film or the book called The Green Mountains - a book I enjoyed reading.
The Lamington National Park is a lovely area, which we have been to several times as I have family living in the Murwillumbah area. We have yet to go to O'Reillys, but perhaps next visit; it is on our list!)

Editor's Comment: More information about the real crash can also be found at:
This detailed site promotes another book about the crash by Bruce McDonald called Once upon a Mountain. There is a lot of information and many photos tempting you to buy the book.
Those who are mystified are reminded that the film called The Riddle of The Stinson has been shown often on UK TV and is likened by many to a good Shute novel.


John Anderson of The UK has written that he and his band of archive pirates will soon comb the records of the Vickers-owned Airship Guarantee Company who made R100. They hope to uncover any Shute-related material. John writes that they expect to go through the following original documents:

  • Minute books from 1924-1929 (Director's meetings)
  • The legal agreement between the Govt. and Airship Guarantee Co.
  • Some photographs
  • A company history by V.Pritchard (but compiled much later)
  • Correspondence between Shute and Barnes Wallis from 1923 onwards.
  • 35 microfilms of records

I am sure John will welcome any volunteers to help with the research.


Fulton Cook from Tennessee, The USA writes:

I've worked in aviation all of my life and still do part time.
About 3 years ago my wife and I moved to the mountains of Tennessee from Florida (tired of dodging hurricanes, and other reasons).
Shortly after moving we found that a local businessman here is sponsoring a youth group with an aviation orientation. The kids must maintain good grades, be drug and tobacco free, do community service work, and other similar things. In turn for that they are provided flight training at a very nominal rate up to solo. They can continue after that if they wish, but at a higher though still very low price.
Anyhow, I decided to give the group a set of about 20 aviation books, selected from what I consider to be classics, both fiction and non-fiction. I bought used but serviceable hardbacks, and my wife (who knows more about computers than I ever will) made up a nice standard dust jacket for them all, which we put in protective covers.
One young person each year is assigned the job of being "librarian", and the books can be signed out on loan.
Now, the point is, I included both "The Rainbow and the Rose", and "An Old Captivity" in the set. Who knows, maybe some of these kids will not only learn a lot of aviation heritage from reading selections from the set, but they may become Shutists as well!


Philip Davey has written a book about the making of the 1959 film of On The Beach and writes:

As regards "WHEN HOLLYWOOD CAME TO MELBOURNE - the Story of the making of Stanley Kramer's On The Beach", I'm currently undertaking a number of revisions and rationalising photos.
Some have suggested to me that the title WHEN HOLLYWOOD CAME TO MELBOURNE may not quite hit the spot. Although I quite like it, as do many others, I'm looking for possible alternatives, although I think it appropriate to retain the second part. I've thought of HOLLYWOOD DOWNUNDER, but that's apparently been taken by another book.
So, I wondering if you all wouldn't mind having a bit of a think and maybe coming up with a few suggestions? It would need to somehow associate with the concept of Hollywood moving out of its comfort zoom to put on a major production in a country mostly devoid of a film industry and facilities etc (at that time of course).

Editor's Comment: Philip will soon be self-publishing this book for around US$25- to US$30- (plus postage I assume). He will take advance orders so contact him now.
If you can help come up with a new name you will be covered in glory and be able to impress people at all those cocktail parties.


Robert King writes:

In the May newsletter you quote a fellow saying it's a crime for Shute books to sit idle on library shelves.
Our son works in the Madera, CA library and one of his jobs is to take discarded books out to the dumpster. That's where a goodly number of my Shute Collection comes from.


My sister is visiting Dublin so naturally I got her to take time out of her precious holiday and visit 91 Mount Merrion Ave in Blackrock where Shute's parents lived from 1912. The house was called South Hill. 10 miles south of Dublin, the house was set in 13 acres, had a walled garden, stables and greenhouses.
My sister found that the address is now a gated community of red brick and cream buildings of indeterminate age. She said it was a posh area with plenty of rich looking blonde women driving around in expensive cars. Sadly she couldn't get a photo so if anyone else visits Dublin please send me a photo.
It will eventually get on the website photo album and you will become immortal. (well, sort of) If you get someone to take your photo in front of the address you will be even more immortal. Try to get a blonde trophy-wife driving by in her BMW into the photo.


Stephen Smith of Sydney, Australia writes:

I am interested in attending the CC2005 in October.
I have been to Cape Cod once a few years ago and travelled by hiring a car in NY and driving. But is it more convenient to say fly from LA to say, Boston or somewhere else and thence by bus?

Editor's Comment: I went to Mapquest which is a fantastic site full of maps and driving directions and found that Cape Cod is only 90 minutes drive from Boston Airport or 4.5 hours from JFK New York Airport.
My advice to Stephen was to get a cheap rental car from Boston and so have wheels during the conference.
I imagine there is also a bus service from Boston Airport to Cape Cod.
For cheap overseas flights I highly recommend STA Travel, which started as a student travel organization here in Australia and is now a worldwide cheap travel business selling great fares to everybody.


Kate Jones

Since the ATLA video tapes are getting hard to find, and I'm on my third one (NEVER Loan these things, they evaporate) I talked my husband into burning a copy on DVD. Amazingly, my VCR tape didn't have copy protect and it worked! Of course, it has the same fuzzy, jumpy character of the original. I hope this is not illegal -- we are not planning to sell copies. I'm still hoping to live to see a film production of Trustee from the Toolroom. What are the odds on this happening. Thanks, Kate Jones

Editor's Comment: While I am sure the copyright holders would say it is illegal I don't think you will be considered worth prosecuting especially now that VCRs are not worth repairing anymore and they haven't bothered to bring out a DVD version.
I searched for evidence of a film of Trustee but sadly this seems not to be happening.


Andy Banta Andrew Banta

In preparation for my talk at the conference in October, I need some information on 1930s vintage British aircraft carriers and the airplane they carried. If anyone can help it would be appreciated.


This month the Cape Cod 2005 Gathering hosts have three things to report.

  1. When you reserve a room at the Cape Codder Resort, be sure to get a confirmation number and let Art Cornell know that you have reserved a room so he can verify it.
  2. On July 9 Joan and Art will be leaving for France to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary with their entire family. They will return on July 26. (Just in case you want to get in touch with us.)
  3. On Wednesday night, October 4, after the banquet, we will present a dramatized reading from Shute's screen play, Vinland the Good. It will be directed by John Cooper, a Shutists from San Antonio, Texas. John will play Nevil Shute, describe the setting and introduce the characters.

We are holding auditions by e-mail. We need people who can speak loud, clear and with dramatic flair.
The characters will be:

  1. Shute;
  2. Prologue narrator (preferably a woman);
  3. Thorgunna, a princess from the Scottish Hebrides and a mystic:
  4. Major Callender, a master at a British public school who has just been discharged from the army after WWII (preferably a Brit with a strong accent!);
  5. Leif Ericsson;
  6. Tyrker, an old German slave;
  7. A Man (very few words);
  8. Haki, a young man who is a Scottish slave;
  9. Haekia, a young woman who is a Scottish slave.

The characters will receive their scripts before the reading and there will be one rehearsal before the great event. No memorization will be required! For those who do not have Vinland the Good, all the Viking saga characters, except for Thorgunna, are in An Old Captivity. However, Hekja is Haekia in the screen play.
Following the Prologue to the Final Act we will only be reading the last part of the screen play about the discovery of Cape Cod. We will not be reading the entire play.


Winter is upon us here which meant 3 cold days with rain this week with some flooding after a long drought. It's sunny now again.
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