Nevil Shute Norway Foundation

November Newsletter

2005-11/November 1, 2005


Letters from many attendees confirm the success of Cape Cod.
It sounds like there might be another gathering in two years in Alice Springs and that this will possibly be organised by Laura Schneider.
Art Cornell wrote that the Gathering came off without a hitch and the weather was perfect.
Art said "On the excursion day at the sand spit where the Vikings came in, a float plane flew over as we were all standing there. Everyone thought that Joan and I had planned it because Joan was on her cell phone. But she was just calling the people at our house to tell them that we would be there soon."
Joost Meulenbroek and John Anderson are putting together a Photo Album of the many photos taken at the conference.
Many felt that the tea party in the backyard featuring Cherry Cake was the perfect ending.
A Survey for those who couldn't attend Cape Cod and other Cape Cod articles are at the end of the newsletter.


John Hill of The UK writes:

A recent holiday in Galloway (south west Scotland) produced a pristine Reprint Society edition of Requiem for a Wren (published by World Books).
Though of no value in itself, the book revealed a folded foolscap four-page advertising insert with the following piece by NSN. From a letter within the same insert, I've deduced that the book cost a lot less than 10 shillings (50p).
Extracted from Broadsheet - bulletin of ŒWorld Books' May 1956 ŒWhy I prefer to live in Australia' - by Nevil Shute
When I decided in 1950 to leave England to go to live in Australia a great number of people wanted to know what on earth made me do such a thing. The most astonished and the most incredulous of all were Australians, because many Australians of the older generation have a curious inferiority complex and can see little virtue in their own country.
ŒHow can you possibly have left England to come to live in a place like this?' they asked. ŒEngland, with all its wealth of culture and tradition, the centre of political wisdom, where Westminster Abbey stands and where the Guard is changed in front of Buckingham Palace every day? How can you bear to come to live in a place like this, twelve thousand miles away from everything that matters?'
I'm afraid the only answer is that I just like it in Australia.
For one thing, in Australia I feel no sense of isolation from England nor, I think, need anybody else have one. The minds of the Australians are turned so much on England, to a degree quite unrealized by the English people that English politics and English affairs in general are on everybody's lips in those circles in which most authors would move. Physically, of course, the growth of air transport has placed Australia right on the doorstep of London and New York. Suppose a young author were to achieve popularity while living on some remote cattle station to the west of Alice Springs, and in this country stranger things have happened than that. It would be quicker for him to go to London or New York to meet his publishers than it was for Sir Walter Scott to travel from Abbotsford to London, and in terms of real money the flight from Australia would be cheaper than Sir Walter's coach fare. The isolation of Australia today exists only in the minds of men, and there it is dying very quickly.
Probably emigration was easier for me than it would have been for most authors, for I was always a provincial at heart. I never cared very much for life in London, and preferred my life in York and in Portsmouth. I write nothing but novels so that no literary business has ever constrained me to live near the capital; no contacts with the editors of periodicals or with theatrical managers or with film studios have tied me to London. In fact, I know very few people indeed in the literary world. I like living in the provinces, and for me the move from Portsmouth to Melbourne meant little more than a move from one provincial city to another.
Most authors probably would not find Australia quite so stimulating as I do. A new country rapidly developing its own resources must always present a stimulating picture to an engineer, and I still class myself more as an engineer than as an author. A new main road, a new tractor factory, or a new hydro-electric scheme in a new country gives me a thrill of pleasure hardly to be understood, perhaps, by authors and by critics with a more literary background.
In Australia I get the sense of being present at the start of something really good, really important to the world. I get the sense that I am helping along something of importance merely by living in the country and writing about it.
The vastness, and the emptiness, of the country fascinates me, too. In Melbourne I am always conscious of the huge spaces of the hinterland. The Crimea is much closer to Kensington than Port Darwin is to my home. The coastline of Australia is longer than the distance between London and Melbourne, and very few people have seen it or know much about it. In such a country all kinds of things are going on, incredible until you go and see them happening. It will be some time before I have exhausted the vagaries of English-speaking people in Australia as a source of fiction, and when I do so there is a wealth of material waiting for a fiction writer in the impact of the West upon the peoples of the Pacific, hardly touched by a writer from Great Britain for over sixty years. It may be that what was good enough for Robert Louis Stevenson will prove to be good enough for me.
Perhaps the truth of it all is that I like new things better than old. I would rather look at Rockefeller Plaza than the Parthenon, for the one is a complete and living work of art while the other is the ruin of what may have once been beautiful. I have no liking for Tudor villages filled with half-timbered houses, where black beams that the builder intended to be as brightly painted as a plough, support leaning walls one brick thick, badly designed for modern life, draughty, and unpleasant to live in. I prefer, perhaps, the slap-happy enterprise and vigour of the new countries to the bumbling assertions of superiority and wisdom coming from the old, however right they may be. I would rather buy a picture by a living artist than a dead one, even though the latter be the better picture, for the future of the world depends upon the living, not the dead. I have no respect at all for antiquity, as such. An old thing, or an old tradition, is only valuable to me if it be so beautiful or true as to hold its own place in the modern world.
So I live in Australia thirty miles south of Melbourne in a modern country house built to my own requirements, farming a hundred and thirty acres with dairy cattle and pigs, looking out upon the mountains and the sea. I picked this place for its climate which seems to me to be the best in the world; a cold, blustery winter with no frost or snow but all the same a time for central heating and log fires followed by a glorious long summer of sailing, bathing, shorts, and tropical clothes. I work for eight or nine months of the year and travel for the remainder.


Steph Gallagher writes:

I just received information from the BBC that they are going to do a radio program special on NSN. Copied below is an excerpt from the letter. We are producing a programme about Nevil Shute for BBC Radio 4's biography series Great Lives, in which a prominent person nominates a hero as a Great Life to discuss.
Popular writer and broadcaster Adam Hart-Davis has chosen Nevil Shute as his example of a Great Life, and will champion his life and achievements in a programme to be broadcast on December 2nd. For Adam, Shute was one of those rare polymaths who combined his artistic and scientific talents to dramatic effect, and whose writing could tell of the dignity of work, the sheer thrill of aviation, and the hopes and fears of ordinary people in the new ³atomic age.² Radio 4 is the UK's national speech radio station, reaching nearly ten million listeners a week.
Alison Jenner has written that anyone can access the BBC R4 programmes from anywhere in the world by logging on to:
The Great Lives series is one of those where you can listen live or listen again for up to a week later.

Editor's Comment: We will inform you when the Nevil Shute programme is available.


Lisa Moody of Langwarrin near Frankston, Victoria, Australia writes:

We currently live in the house that Nevil Shute built and lived in near Melbourne in Australia. Some of your foundation members visited the house when they attended a Conference in Frankston in 2001.
We are preparing to offer accommodation for short term or longer terms stays in two cottages attached to the main house. We could accommodate 2 - 8 people and thought that this may be of interest to some of your members when they are next planing a visit to Melbourne. If anyone would like more information please contact me via email and I shall be happy to provide information and photos.

Editor's Comment: It sounds like these cottages were the part of the original house and were built for Shute's two daughters. It is a lovely location and would be a wonderful place to stay. Take that first draft of your novel. Maybe you will find inspiration.
Contact Lisa at:


Roger Harris writes:

Joy Hogg ("Alice and Trustee as Bait") asked "what other authors our Shute fans enjoy".
I agree that this would be a worthwhile exercise that might lead some of us to enjoyable books.
Here's one to start: Ken Follet's book "Hornet Flight" (which I believe was originally published in 2002; ISBN is 0525946896) has roughly similar themes to "Pied Piper" and "Most Secret". Of course the style is different, but Shute would appreciate the hero: 18-year-old Harald Olufsen, a technical whiz who builds a steam-powered motorcycle and repairs a damaged DH-87 Hornet Moth using scrap materials.

Editor's Comment: Another Shute-like book that was mentioned by Charles D. of the USA was John Le Carre's The Constant Gardener.


J.B. Robert of The USA writes:

One of the features of the IMDB website is the ability to search for films by plot summary. Perhaps members of our group who believe that they have seen a film which has a Shute-like plot can look for it there at
It is not as easy as it sounds, but a little bit of patience and flexibility might produce some helpful results.


Jonathan Kent of The UK writes:

I am impressed with this web site and am a Nevil Shute fan.
Having read 'Black Stump' form the first time the other day, and then looked at the mixed reviews of it in your books section, I have come to the conclusion that, like many Shute novels, it would have great potential as a TV project having all the ingredients-1950's nostalgia, romance, Aussie sheep stations, the oil business (topical) characters, such as the Judge; all which would lend themselves to a screenplay.
However, I know nothing about film /TV rights of Shute's work. Have they all been taken up?

Editor's Comment: We have no ongoing list of who holds the film rights to Shute's books. Serious enquiries regarding applications regarding the copyright of, and film rights to Shute books can be directed to Linda Shaughnessy of Shute's literary agents AP Watt but please don't bombard her with idle questions. Being a professional organization I doubt that AP Watt will divulge who owns the rights to which book to 3rd parties.


John Forester of California, The USA writes:

The latest NS Newsletter asks to have a story identified, seen as a film long ago, and thought to be by NS.
The story is described as that of an RAF pilot sent on a mission to capture, on its airfield, a new-design Messerschmidt, and fly it to Britain.
That story is Eagle Squadron, by C. S. Forester.

Editor's Comment:
Eagle Squadron was made in 1942 and starred a young cast many of whom did well including:

  • Robert Stack, who later starred in The Untouchables,
  • Eddie Albert, who later starred in Roman Holiday and Green Acres,
  • Nigel Bruce, who was famous for his portrayal of Dr Watson opposite Basil Rathbone playing Sherlock Holmes,
  • and Alan Hale Jr, who later achieved fame as The Skipper in Gilligan's Island.

(Leif Erickson and Peter Lawford were there too!)


Jim & Kristi Woodward write:

I just received the September newsletter and a day or so earlier my son sent me a video of some familiar aircraft in flight along with some recorded music. This makes me want to do some touch-an-go landings.

Editor's Comment: Jim is referring to a video available about LA's Van Nuys airport. You can watch a trailer with some lovely flying shots to the music of Enya. Included are a beautiful old Mustang and a classic DC3. See the trailer online at:


Charles D. of The USA wrote me a series of long but fascinating emails regarding Vikings in America. Charles writes:

I'm sorry I won't be able to get to the Meeting at Cape Cod. However, I'd like to make some comments and observations on the Viking explorations in North America from about 1000-1400 AD.
My family originated in Norway.
At age 12 my family moved to a town in Minnesota, which was predominantly Norwegian in ancestry and had supplied much of the stock of Norwegians that ended up in Canada so it was rather immediately made known, that in contrast to Columbus, Leif Ericson, a Norwegian, had really discovered America in AD1000.
It was some years later that I actually got a gift of a translation of the Vinland Sagas and began to read the pro's and con's about the actual location of Vinland the Good.
It was in 1963 that Ingstad verified the location in Newfoundland. I was in college at the time, and became a friend with an Icelandic engineering student who spurred my interests.
One of the very best analyses of the Viking expeditions was written by the famous author, Farley Mowat: "Westviking", published in 1965, but not discovered by me until 1974. By now it might be dated. He quotes line by line from the Sagas and analyzes their meanings.
He tries to deduce the travel routes of the Viking ships in their explorations and incidentally dismisses Cape Cod, Mass. as a possible location, given the currents, winds and seamanship of the time. But Shute was unaware of this analysis.
In a part of one of the Sagas, the Scottish runners, Haki and Hekii are mentioned.
They become the subjects of the dream scenes in "An Old Captivity".
As a teenager, I was introduced to the controversy of the Kensington Runestone, found only about 40 miles from our Minnesota farm. It was the subject of heated social and academic debate.

Editor's Interruption: Charles refers to a stone that was found on a farm in 1898. Whether it is a hoax or not has been argued ever since.
With variations on the translation the text reads:
8 Geats (South Swedes) and 22 Norwegians on acquisition venture from Vinland far to the west. We had traps by 2 shelters one day's travel to the north from this stone We were fishing one day. After we came home found 10 men red with blood and dead AVM (Ave Maria) Deliver from evils!
The lateral (or side) text reads:
I have 10 men at the inland sea/lake to look after our ship 14 days travel from this wealth/property Year of our Lord 1362
You can find websites with various pieces of information about the stone at:

Charles continues:

To cut the story short, I became a believer that Viking explorers had come down into Minnesota from the Hudson's Bay, perhaps, and had been attacked by native Indians, and may have been eventually wiped out or have melded into the Indian society.
As the past 100 years have gone by, the positions taken on authenticity have been stubbornly fought over.
The academics initially declared it to be a fraud and a poor forgery with many "mistakes".
However, even within the past year, technology and further research into ancient manuscripts has shown that the "mistakes" are mostly authentic variations that are well-documented now, but unknown to the (meagre) "experts" of 1900. So how could a practical joker have known better?
The surmise is that explorers would have had to stay on waterways to travel into the interior. There are disputed evidences of the route taken. In those places in which they had to portage from one watershed to another, they basically had to cross a continental divide, separating Hudson Bay drainage from either Lake Superior drainage and/or Mississippi River drainage. It just so happens that my current farm lies very close to this continental divide.
So I can imagine the progress of Norse explorers from some 650 years ago. Major northbound and southbound rivers are separated by only about 5 miles. It was very important for these explorers to have scouts. Hence, fast runners, like Haki and Hekii of the Sagas 362 years before. They would be sent out to find the shortest distance between rivers, to minimize the effort to portage, and to keep the exposure to hostility to a minimum. They would probably stick to the high ground (along the continental divide) from which they could see long distances, in particular, bodies of water and streams. They also were supposed to discover and give warning of any sign of hostile natives. Their speed at running would allow them to get back to their base faster than the Indians who might be chasing them. (Remember, no horses, at this time.) It was highly important, and also very dangerous work.
I guess that Nevil Shute, being quite the establishment sort, would have believed that the academics were right, yet, I'm also sure that the controversy over the Kensington Runestone had to have prodded him into writing his own version of the legend.
As he did on a fairly regular basis, he went off onto rather fantastical story lines, some of which might have proven prophetic. (Thank goodness, not "On the Beach".)
Some researcher has studied Indian place names in the New England and Maine areas, and has discovered that a large fraction of them have the same meanings in old Norse. It is known that that the Iroquois Indians practiced a democratic form of government and built lodges similar to old Norse buildings. The idea of a democracy was established in Iceland in the time before the Viking sagas. The founders of the American Constitution are said to have taken inspiration from the legends of the Iroquois Indians.


Philippe Charuest of Canada writes:

As you probably all noticed the site where there were all the Nevil Shute books covers is closed.
I'm pretty sure that the NSN foundation and/or some member have already backed up all those covers. It would be a good idea to upload them on your site.
There's also a need for a real bibliographical page of all old editions.
There's the "The Nevil Shute Book Page" site but its very incomplete. For example I notice on abebook some NSN hardcover book published in the 40s by "Sundial Press" and theres no mention of it. Even the pages on Heinemann and Morrow are incomplete so...
P.S talking of abebooks I just bought through them a first edition of "No Highway" by Morrow in good shape with the dust jacket for only 7.50 $US, no need to say that I'm thrilled.

Editor's Comment: I am not sure these covers have been backed up. Does anyone know?

The need for a complete bibliography has come up before but when you get into it the job is just horrendously huge. The editions multiply out exponentially. I can only suggest that those who are most enthusiastic for a complete bibliography get together and create one but I won't blame you if, once you realise the size of the task, you furtively look around to see no-one is watching and quietly shelve the project as others have done before you.
Perhaps a fresh burst of energy from readers will finally slay this dragon. Remember that this is a volunteer based site. Everything on it has been done as a labour of love by Shute fans for the enjoyment of other Shute fans. As the coordinator of the Photo Album I can say that any labour in the Shute area is its own reward 10 times over.


Art and Joan Cornell organisers of Cape Cod 2005 write:

The Nevil Shute Cape Cod 2005 Gathering is over but it will not be forgotten. We hosted and facilitated the event but it was the speakers, the readers, the actors and ALL the participants who made it work.
Dan Telfair said, "The true measure of how much people enjoy a conference is how eager they are to have another. At the close out, I tried my best to temper enthusiasm, and to ensure we had an accurate response concerning the desire for another gathering, and the intentions of those present to attend. The results speak for themselves. When asked about another gathering, I believe everyone in the room responded positively. When asked if they sincerely thought they would attend another gathering, even if it were held in Alice Springs, the vast majority indicated they would attend."
Others have said:
We thoroughly enjoyed the "gathering"; especially meeting all the Shutist, not met before, and those from the Centennial who made it to Cape Cod. What a wonderful and interesting group of folks they are.
I love it when it is time for our Gathering, and I feel sad when it is over, but it looks like plans may go forward for what I call Alice 2007. I will certainly go if it comes about.
I enjoyed every minute. I do hope to see you in 2007, wherever that may be. We had a wonderful time.
I am still on a Nevil Shute high. It was so much fun with everyone. As anyone can see, it was a successful Gathering and we are ready for another in 2007 or 2008.


Andy Banta writes:

The night after the final day, Thursday, of the Cape Cod Gathering I was very tired. It had been a wonderful but very tiring four days. I went to bed and immediately went into a deep sleep much the way Donald Ross did in ³An Old Captivity². And just as the spirit of Johnnie Pascoe was present in his house in Buxton, Tasmania, the spirit of Nevil Shute was very present at the Cape Codder. I almost immediately started to dream; the scene was very British. I entered a gentlemen's club with thick carpets and polished wood paneling. The elderly doorman told me Mr. Norway was sitting by the fire. I hesitantly approached him, introduced myself and ask if I might join him. He agreed and the waiter brought us each a glass of sherry. We talked of many things. He expressed his great disappointment when the R 100 came to an untimely end. The early years at Airspeed occupied our conversation for some time. He briefly mentioned his visit to Cape Cod in 1939. We then discussed his adventures during WWII, particularly the Grand Panjandrum. His flight to Australia and back took more than an hour. We passed over his years in Australia rather quickly but did chat a bit about ³On the Beach². We then came to his unfinished novel ³Incident at Eucla². We talked about the existing 30 pages of type script and how nicely the story was developing. I then came to the crucial question, where was the story going? Just as he started to answer my alarm clock woke me up!


Like all readers I have had ups and downs. I am freelance and this year was very hard for me financially. This prevented my attendance at Cape Cod. Before you all send me money (large unmarked bills please) things are suddenly improving again but I still missed the conference.
Sadly, enjoyment of Shute does not automatically confer financial wealth or good health on the reader and so not everybody can get to a conference but you can always re-read a Shute book and meet characters as nice, resourceful, enthusiastic, practical and friendly as the people you would meet at a Nevil Shute conference.
We are a little community of people stretched all over the world who are all touched by Shute's double vision of how the world is and how it should be. I have found that if you expect people to be like people in a Shute novel they will usually rise to the occasion. I think that those who accuse Shute of painting overly rosy pictures of people must have a particularly lousy set of friends, family and acquaintances.
The weather is turning directly into Summer here. It decided Spring was not worth waiting through. The Pacific Ocean is warming to a refreshing rather than a startling temperature and life is looking pretty good except for one tax bill sitting on desk. I wonder how quickly I could rearrange Australia's electoral system, acquire 7 votes, and then vote to abolish the tax department. The big question is can get all the constitutional changes through parliament before my 14 day tax payment deadline is up?
Hope you are all well.
All the best from AUTFOD
Richard Michalak
Nevil Shute Foundation Historian and Newsletter Editor
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