Book Review

2005-09/September 1, 2005


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Richard Michalak


The conference happens in early October but its not too late to decide to go.
For information see the press release at the end of this newsletter.


This month we were saddened to hear of the death of long time Shutist Richard Leger. Richard, who was 59, was killed in the crash of his ultra light hybrid boat/plane.
Richard did not attend OZ2001 or UK2003 but had been planning to attend Cape Cod.

Richard's wife Hisa writes:

I wish to inform you that my husband, Richard Leger, passed away on July 3, 2005. He enjoyed being a member of your society. I wish to thank you all for being his friends.

Dan Telfair writes:

Richard and his mother, Sue, attended the Centennial. He was one of the original clan of Shutists that became the members of the Foundation. Apparently, it was his mother who led him to Nevil Shute. She had a daughter - I assume it was Richard's sister - who lived in the Australian Outback. Thus, her interest in Nevil's writing.


This month we also lost Charles Richmond who died after a short illness. I am sure you all join me in extending our sympathy to Charles' wife, La Velle Montgomery.
With their perpetual smiles and unflagging enthusiasm Charles and La Velle were the life of OZ 2001 and UK 2003.

La Velle Montgomery writes:

Charlie and I had been to all the Nevil Shute conventions, New Mexico, Australia and England. The Shute gatherings were a high point in our vacation plans and we enjoyed the great mix of people attending. Charlie and I were both pilots and, of course, assumed this would be a 'flying' type convention. It has been so much more. We enjoyed the many Nevil Shute friends and would ask that you remember us to them.
Thank you so very much.


J.B. Robert of The USA writes:

To the lady who would like to sell her late father's collection: I purchased a new (Heron?) 22 volume set about 5 years ago on eBay for somewhere between $250 and $300. Do you know that it fits perfectly on one shelf of a 30" bookcase (a standard American size)? Coincidence? I think not.
I don't know what Keith Stewart sounds like but, like most Shute readers, I have a mental and aural likeness for all of his characters. I can't associate the accent that Bob Hoskins uses in most of his films with the Trustee.
I thought (the TV version) of ATLA was perfectly cast. Perhaps the Brits (Aussies?) have a talent for casting which the Americans lack although the Gregory Peck/ Ava Gardner/Fred Astaire On The Beach wasn't too bad and certainly better than the Armand Assante one.
And Jimmy Stewart in No Highway was a pretty good Theodore Honey.

Editor's Comment: As I recall Keith Stewart was Scots so an accent would be called for.
The 1981 ATLA was an Australian production but was made with British sensibilities so I don't think its being called British would upset the producers.
However, the patronage of the recent version of On The Beach is unlikely to be claimed by anyone.


E & R Shanahan of Queensland, Australia write:

Wouldn't it be great to see a film of Trustee from the Toolroom, unless the producer decides he 'has a better idea' and hacks the story into an unrecognisable form.


Nedra Mathis of Georgia, the USA writes:

As a devoted fan of Nevil Shute and annual traveler to Cape Cod I suggest an alternative airport to Boston is the one at Providence,RI. Our friends who live on the Cape always travel via Providence which is located much closer to the Cape. Rental cars are available. Southwest Air flies into Providence.
Maybe this information will help those planning to attend the conference.

A second alternative to Boston's Logan Airport is Manchester, NH [ MHT ]. It is located less than an hour from Boston and Cape Cod. -OMW


Steve van Dulken emailed me that he had located some interesting documents in the catalogue of The British Library. They include the information that Shute had researched the India Office Library and Records for information about The Bengal Uncovenanted Family Pension Fund for use in his book The Far Country. Readers will remember that Jennifer's grandmother starves to death because her pension ran out.
Also of particular interest was mention of a 21 February 1959 interview with Nevil Shute referring to Sir Alfred Pugsley's work on metal fatigue as the inspiration for the novel No Highway. When this is uncovered we will pass it on.


Johan Bakker of The USA writes:

Royal Readers - I can't speak for the UK Royal Family but can advise you that HRH Prins Bernhard of the Netherlands is a big fan.
NSN had some dealings with him, via an intermediary at the Australian Embassy in London, to obtain flight clearances through the Dutch East Indies when he and Riddell flew to Australia. I have seen copies of correspondence between NSN and this embassy official, whose name escapes me, in which it is related that NSN sent Prince Bernhard a copy of 'A Town Like Alice' when it was published, and that the Prince had subsequently conveyed his appreciation back.
When I proofread 'The Seafarers', some years back now, I sent one of my 'comp' copies to the Prince, who is yet alive, and got a most cordial response, indicating that he had enjoyed the new book very much and that he has most if not all of Shute's books in his private library.
A movie of 'Trustee'? Bring it on!
(Click the following links to see the actors Johann mentions ≠ Editor)
Keith Stewart? Bob Hoskins would be a fine, fine choice.
I would also like to suggest a fine British actor called Stephen Dillane.
Readers may recall that he played the husband of Virginia Woolf in the Meryl Streep movie 'The Hours'. He is the right age, and has the appearance that I have always had of Keith in my mind's eye.
Jack Donelly? Nick Nolte. Role was made for him.
Keith's wife? Zoe Wanamaker.
Sol Hirzhorn? Stephen Hill, who played DA Adam Schiff on the TV series 'Law and Order' for many years. (Can't find a photo ≠ Ed)
Julie Perlberg? Minnie Driver
Professor O'Leary? Michael Moriarty
And, although it's a minor part, the captain of the Flying Cloud should be Tom Hanks - we should see whether he's available.
I'm 99% certain that 'boffin' appears in Landfall, but will check tonight. I would also suspect that it's in Pastoral, maybe also in Most Secret.

Editor's Comment: In the online resource, Wikipedia, it says: Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands (June 29, 1911 ≠ December 1, 2004) was Prince Consort to the late Queen Juliana of the Netherlands, and father of the current monarch, Queen Beatrix. Bernhard was a charismatic and popular figure among the majority of the Dutch people for his service as a pilot during World War II and his efforts at rebuilding the war-torn nation afterwards. So far, no one has been able to absolutely confirm whether or not Boffin appears in Landfall.


Kate Jones wrote a flattering email saying that because of the newsletter she feels connected with all the other NSN lovers all over the world.
I feel the same.


Alison Jenner of The UK writes:

I've been doing a bit of looking into Most Secret and found out about a special operation, which used French fishing boats, and Breton volunteers to run in and take off agents. It really does sound like a Nevil Shute story.
One of the navigators involved was David Birkin, who I think was married to the actress who first popularised 'A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square' - a very Shutish connection.
I'm hoping to produce something for the next gathering after this - think long term, I say.


Philip Davey of Melbourne, Australia, who has written a book on the filming of On The Beach (1959) writes:

Whilst we are not absolutely sure that Shute did not attend the filming of OTB, Donna Anderson does not ever recall seeing or meeting him, nor do any of the behind the scenes people I have interviewed over the years. Interestingly though, a caller to radio 774 earlier this year, reported that he had seen Shute at Phillip Island. (where they shot the racetrack scenes ≠ ed.)
Shute was quite active early on during the planning stages - In May 1958 he introduced Kramer's production men to the Frankston Shire Secretary and then took them around to the locations in the book. I do think that after he had his falling out with Kramer in Nov/Dec 1958, and when he was so unwell, decided to not become involved with the production. This view was shared by Shute's former farm manager - Mr Greenwood, whom I caught up a while ago.
Astaire (and Kramer earlier) was the only actor to visit Shute at Langwarrin.
Astaire's daughter Ava confirmed this with me as did Mr Greenwood. But being so involved with the Davey's Bay Yacht club, you'd think he would have at least turned up for these scenes!

Editor's Comment: Just imagine having Fred Astaire take the trouble to come and visit you at your home !


David Dawson Taylor of The UK writes:

With reference to the item in the last newsletter, the Cassell 'Dictionary of Slang' defines BOFFIN as:-[1940s+] any form of scientific expert, originally those RAF scientists who were working on radar (ety. unknown), although according to Robert Watson-Watt (1892-1973), the inventor of radar, the term 'has something to do with an obsolete type of aircraft call the Baffin, something to do with that odd bird, the Puffin'.
Websters Dictionary is no help.

Editor's Comment: See a Baffin at this link. See a Puffin Here. See a Boffin at: Watson Watt


John Lorenz of Maine, The USA writes:

My father was at Balliol College with NSN.....I still have his Register (Alumni Directory) published in 1933.
Just saw No Highway..not sure if I ever saw it originally...what an excellent movie!....also loved the movie of The Pied Piper, but unfortunately don't have a copy of it...
Have a great gathering on the Cape!

Editor's Comment: John kindly contributed the website photo album photo of Shute at Balliol College.


I have had many emails asking for PAL VHS and DVD copies of the 1981 A Town Like Alice.
DVDs or PAL VHSs of the 1981 miniseries of A Town Like Alice seem rare or non-existent but NTSC VHS copies are available.
If you are in a PAL area and have a newer VHS player you MIGHT find it successfully plays back NTSC tapes. If it does it will specifically say this on the machine or in the handbook. Don't just assume it will. If it does you can buy a USA tape and try that but don't do it unless you are absolutely sure as you may waste your money. I have such a specially labelled player here in Australia. An NTSC VHS tape of On The Beach that I bought in The USA plays perfectly through my PAL VHS player onto my PAL TV set. I can't legally suggest you make copies of the US NTSC VHS onto a DVD, even for your personal use. It may not work anyway.
A previous writer had found that this particular VHS had no copyright protection and was easily copied to DVD.
However, if you did this for personal use and got away with it, I feel certain that anyone who did this and tried to sell or distribute the DVDs would certainly be prosecuted.
The only Alice DVDs I have ever found were the 1956 version.


Bob King writes:

In the last newsletter there was some discussion of a DVD of ATLA. We first heard/saw the story on PBS and had the good sense to record it, even tho it was a poor transmission. Later I was able to buy it on a new on VCR which we have enjoyed many times.
Recently we were able to view a newer version of the story and were most disappointed at how the story had been changed. And there's something so very special about the original characters. In it's original form with the magnificant music it's one of the few stories that can almost bring me to tears - it's so beautiful.
In my mid-80s with spreading cancer I'm not sure now long I have to go nor how many after me would be interested in this beautiful story, but I'd like to buy a DVD just to have in my archives and hope some of my progeny will appreciate/enjoy it as I have.
When asked which is my favorite Shute book I usually say ATLA, Trustee, and The Far Country. But when the haunting music is factored in ATLA is a once in a lifetime masterpiece. I'm so appreciative of NSN's having written it and those that set the music to it originally.

Editor's Comment: See the previous article re DVDs. The music for the 1981 Alice Miniseries was written by Australian composer Bruce Smeaton.


Recently Shute was accused of caricature in his Australian characters. This comes up occasionally. These accusations seem mainly to come from Australians who think they are all being characterised as grass chewing outback types. In Australia we call this reaction 'The Cultural Cringe'. I was having a cranky day when I saw the email and wrote a rather hot reply which I now regret but I would like to make the general point that those who feel this are probably only remembering Joe Harman squatting on his heel and chewing grass and saying 'Aw Look' and 'Crikey'. In this he is reminiscent of modern day Steve Irwin, The Crocodile Hunter, who, even if he is real, always seems like a cartoon character.
However, Joe was a real type. Shute met him. Shute wrote about him. We even know the original man's real name: Jimmy Edwards.
But do these critics remember the other Aussie characters like the scientist in On The Beach?
The scientist didn't chew grass or sit on his heel or say 'Aw Look' or 'Crikey'. He spoke and acted like an educated, sophisticated Australian scientist. I am certain Shute had met many of them too.
This issue is always a hard case to argue as it is such a matter of opinion. It's a bit like wrestling with smoke or herding cats as there are so many interpretations of caricature. However, I believe that Shute consistently wrote accurately about real people he had actually met and was neither lazy nor negligent in his writing.


Recently I looked up this plane for which Shute designed the propeller in 1923.
Amazingly the original plane is still alive and flying occasionally. However I don't doubt it is like the axe that has been in my family for 200 years and has only needed 2 new heads and 5 new handles.
The Shuttleworth Trust now looks after G-EBHX.
It seems it last flew in 2001.
The small plane stands only 4ft 7in high, is 19ft 8in long and its wingspan is 30ft 1in.
For more info and photos go to:


Website Manager Steph Gallagher Writes:

Shutist Sean Minogue is wanting to sell his Nevil Shute R100 ticket, a picture of which can be seen on this website.
If you are interested, please contact Sean directly at: Please note, any correspondence entered into is strictly between you and Sean. It is possible that we may borrow this item from Sean for display at Cape Cod in October. Sean and I are looking into the logistics of this. In the mean time, please see below details of how Sean acquired the ticket. 'Hi Steph. Here is the story as I know it. My father, John Minogue, at one time of his life (our paths separated for about 20 odd years), had what he called an antique shop, and what we would probably call a junk shop in Dublin - I think the Ballsbridge area. One day a couple of dustmen came in with a small fibre suitcase that they said had been thrown out with some rubbish, and in this case was an old navigators wrist watch, some personal letters and the tickets. My father worked out who they belonged to and contacted Shute's family - I think that he had two daughters - who asked him to forward the personal letters but told him to keep the watch and the ticket. In 1983 I made contact with my father again and shortly after that he gave me the ticket.'

Editor's Comment: I love a mystery. Heather Mayfield (Shute's daughter) said that, apart from a family holiday to Ireland in 1947, she had no suggestion how a suitcase of Shute's belongings would end up there. Hopefully one day all this Shute memorabilia will end up in one place. Maybe by 2060 they will finally all be collected in a little glass display case in The Alice Springs Nevil Shute Library.


When I complained that Shute was Blue Plaque-less I had rather foolishly forgotten that Shute has a Blue Plaque in Howden where he worked on R100. See it at:


Recently John Anderson sent me a chapter that Shute wrote in Sir Dennistoun Burney's 1929 book 'The World the Air and the Future'. The chapter is called 'Heavier Than Air Craft' and describes the main issues of aeronautical design as they stood in 1929.
As this is now out of the dreaded 75 years of copyright, I will email you a copy if you want to read it. As you would expect it was well written and I found it very interesting.


Andy Banta of The USA writes:

If you enjoy Nevil Shute's novels about World War II, particularly 'Most Secret', you might enjoy Ken Follett's book 'Hornet Flight'. While the writing style is different, the story is very much in the Shute style. The story concerns a group of young people involved in the Danish resistance movement during WW II and is complete with suspense, daring undertakings and an exciting ending. The book was published in 2002 and is available in paperback from Signet; it should be easy to find at a used book dealer.


Jim Griffin writes:

So glad to see that there is a Nevil Shute Foundation. I have just started reading his books (I have read two of them many years ago), but my wife inherited a complete collection (almost all paperbacks from her aunt) and I started in on them and now cannot stop. I have read about 8 of them ≠ just finished Trustee from the Toolroom. Absolutely first rate material.
As one reader in your newsletter said, it is so sad that we cannot express our enjoyment to the author. I do believe that he did receive his acclaim in his lifetime, however, and his legacy lives on well after his death. I have several more books to read and I'm just starting Most Secret. So great to have so many good books ahead of me.


Jenny Knowles writes:

You may like to know that we are editing a video on the Exbury Veterans day (June 4th 2005) that will feature excerpts from the 'Requiem for a Wren' play. I think the video will turn out to be around 25 minutes long and we can supply copies on VHS or DVD.
The programme will contain anecdotes by veterans and background to some of the real life incidents that are recorded by Nevil Shute in the novel. I did a piece to camera to introduce it last Sunday after getting rescued from the mud at Gilbury Hard!

Editor's Comment: I look forward to this video. Especially seeing Jenny covered in mud.


Alan Beggs who has written to get back on the newsletter list writes:

I am one of the older Shutists - 91- and have now moved into a retirement canter 150 miles from my previous home after cracking a hip and busting a wrist last fall. And I have a new computer. Also it seems that age has brought on a lot of laziness. But I DO miss you all! Incidentally, I am doing a bit of reading aloud to a small group of residents (mostly female) here, some with very poor eyesight. Just finished reading Pied Piper, and we're about to start on Chequer Board. They seem to like it!


Art Cornel writes:

The Nevil Shute Foundation has chosen the Cape Codder Resort in Hyannis, Massachusetts as the site of its next literary conferencečOctober 2-October 6. The conference will celebrate the life of the widely read author, Nevil Shute, who wrote On the Beach and A Town Like Alice, both of which were made into major motion pictures. Art Cornell of Osterville, president of the Cape Cod Nevil Shute Society, says he 'is proud to host this biennial event and welcomes all Nevil Shute readers.' Previous Gatherings have been held in Australia, England and New Mexico.
The October conference will include a bus excursion visiting Provincetown and other sites mentioned in An Old Captivity. Additional highlights will be an exhibit of Nevil Shute memorabilia, showings of the films based on Shute's novels, and ten literary sessions. The topics of the sessions will range from a panel discussion and quiz featuring several of Shute's 'senior' fans to a session discussing how to attract young people to Nevil Shute's work led by a sixteen-year-old participant. There will also be ample opportunity to socialize with people from several continents who share an enduring appreciation for Nevil Shute, this fascinating man and master storyteller, and for his beloved characters, often described as being ordinary people doing extraordinary things.
Nevil Shute visited Cape Cod in 1939 and described Cape Cod as one of the most beautiful places in the world. Interested in the Viking sagas, Shute wrote his sixth novel, An Old Captivity, about the Vikings discovering Cape Cod. It is set in the 1930s and is about an archeologist who explores the Viking sites on Greenland. He hires a pilot to take him there from England in a seaplane. The pilot, overworked and under great stress, cannot sleep so he takes sleeping pills and dreams about Leif Ericksson and two Viking slaves, Haki and Hekja.
Rather than fly back to England by way of Iceland they fly down to Labrador and then to Cape Cod. The pilot said, 'I've been here before.' and lands the plane on Prince Cove in Marston Mills. On shore he finds the stone he had dreamt about and where it had been left 1000 years before. On the stone were the names of Haki and Hekja who were written about in the Viking Sagas. The conference will be held at the beautiful Cape Codder Resort in Hyannis, Massachusetts (see For details on how to register for the conference and how to reserve a room, please visit the Nevil Shute Foundation website at and click on Gatherings. Or telephone the conference hosts, Art and Joan Cornell, at 508-428-0110.


This newsletter marks 2 years that I have been editing the newsletter. I have had a lot of fun.
This month I swore I would slash the newsletter's length by half but it seems that no matter how hard I try to keep it edit letters and keep comments brief, the newsletter just grows and grows and this month it is as long as ever.
I can only hope that you all are able to skim through it and only read what you want to and skip what you don't. There is no way I can organise it into easier-to-skip topics and sections as you are all interested in different things so I hope you don't get too impatient when you read it. Also, because many letters contain small gems of extra information apart from their main topic, it is hard to indicate everything in the headlines.
Except for some very important items I enter articles randomly in the order that they come in.
The weather is perfect here and although we should be having winter rain and cold winds it continues sunny, mild and calm.
I 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