Nevil Shute Norway Foundation

January Newsletter

2006-01/January 2006


Ann Menhinick, daughter of Spiffy Menhinick who was the real person on whom the female lead character Jean Porter in The Seafarers was based, is considering selling the crocodile skin handbag that Nevil Shute gave Spiffy after the film A Town Like Alice was made.
Ann has had the bag for a number of years and seldom used it because it is so special.
This bag would be a valuable collector's item because Shute had it made and it was a personal gift to someone on whom he based a character.
The significance of the crocodile handbag is that, in A Town Like Alice, Jean started a factory making crocodile skin shoes and handbags in Willstown,
Potential buyers are warned that they may encounter customs issues in importing a crocodile skin handbag and may be attacked with red paint by a member of PETA for carrying one but a phone call to your own country's customs explaining the cultural significance of the bag and staying away from your nutty animal-rightist sister-in-law would quickly resolve these issues.
As several Swedish tourists a year are eaten in Northern Australia by these very same crocodiles, which are now protected, I think the crocs are currently well ahead.
Although I am not in a position to buy it myself, I would rate this handbag as a first class Shute-efact. (Shute artefact)
Ann will send photos and dimensions to anyone interested in the bag.
Ann says that the bag, made in Australia, is in very good condition and the inside is unmarked.
Ann is based in The UK. Email her at:


A website sent to me by Jim Woodward following last months letter about the Avro Anson in Landfall revealed an incident that happened at a time very close to when Shute must have begun writing Landfall.
In December 1939 an Avro Anson, presumably of Coastal Command, attacked the British submarine HMS Snapper in error. The sub was hit by at least one of the Anson's small 100-pound bombs but only suffered 4 broken light bulbs.
Another internet source for this incident says 2 British submarines were attacked.
Given that Shute's novel, Landfall, was published in 1940 and is set exactly at the time of this incident and that the attack was presumably caused by the confusion of British and German submarines discussed in Landfall, it would be remarkable if Landfall was not directly inspired by this incident.
For the second time in 2 months I am breaking my own rule and speculating on what Shute must have been thinking but I feel very certain about this. The coincidence is just too great:
Introduced in 1936, The Avro Anson was the first plane in the RAF with retractable landing gear.
Retractable landing gear was introduced commercially in Britain by Shute's Airspeed Courier. With an active service life that extended from 1935 to 1952, more than 11,000 Ansons were built and one was still flying for the RAF in 1968. Operationally obsolete by WW2, Avro Ansons quickly became popular training aircraft.
Not all Ansons were dogged by failure. There is a report on one website that an Anson, trying to protect the Dunkirk beaches, was attacked by 10 Messerschmitts and managed to shoot down 2 and damage a 3rd before the engagement ended.


John Gallimore of France has written giving me the French titles of Shute novels that have been published in French.
John lives in the Massif Central, through which Mr Howard, in Pied Piper, passed with the children.
The titles are listed as: French Published Title / A Literal Translation / English Published Title
Decollage Interdit / No Take-Off / No Highway
Printemps Pour un Pilote / Springtime for a Pilot / Pastoral
Le Testament / The Will / A Town Like Alice
Le Sixieme Livre / The Sixth Book / Round The Bend
Pour un Oui, Pour un Non / For a Yes, For a No or Without Serious Motive / Unknown
l'Escadrille de la Reine / The Squadron of The Queen / In The Wet
Les Frontieres du Coeur / The Frontiers of The Heart / Beyond the Black Stump
Une Chasse aux Diamants / The Diamond Hunt / Unknown
Bonnes Vacances, M. Howard / Happy Holiday Mr Howard / Pied Piper
Mona et le Sous Marin / Mona and the Submarine / Landfall

Editor's Comment: Could anyone who knows what book might have been translated as Pour un Oui, Pour un Non / For a Yes, For a No should drop me a line ?
Has anyone any ideas on Une Chasse aux Diamants?
Reading a book called Mona and The Submarine instead of one called Landfall could affect the way you read the book, giving, as it does, more emphasis on Mona from the very start. However this would seem quite valid, as it is Mona who solves the whole riddle in the end. I certainly like it as a title as it instantly creates tension, given that in 1940, women usually had little to do with submarines.

John also wrote:

I was in turn able to print off a copy of the intriguing article A walk on the beach describing the June 6th landings for my mother who originates from Caen and as a child I remember quite clearly playing on the beaches of Courseulles, St Aubin, Luc sur Mer, and digging up shrapnel and magazine clips just below the surface of the sand.
We had to wear rope soled sandals (espadrilles) to avoid accidents with buried barbed wire!!


William Laing who had been competing on Australian ABC TVs The Einstein Factor quiz show with the Australian novels of Nevil Shute as a special subject has written that he was second runner up in the Grand Final, after three preliminary rounds. William, who has been successful in previous quiz shows and is a devoted Shutist, said he would also appear soon in another show called Australia's Brainiest Quiz Master that Aussies will see on Channel 10.


Priscilla Pruitt of The USA writes:

Nevil Shute has always been my favorite author. I began reading him by the time I was nineteen or twenty and I am sixty-four now.
I am hoping that I can get to the Australia get together. What could be more fun than getting together with other Nevil Shute fans? The whole idea sounds like something that would happen in one of his novels.
I am interested in meeting other NSN enthusiasts in the Bellingham, Washington area (or greater Vancouver, BC or Seattle). If there are no local fans, I would be interested in meeting people from Thousand Oaks, California (not far from Los Angeles) since I will be moving back to that area in the next year.


When Michel Hutin of Switzerland died recently he generously left us a set of Shute novels. These books are going to the UK library with many thanks to Michel and his partner Benoit.


Derek Hill has saved the BBC Nevil Shute Great Lives programme and will email it to anyone who missed it.


Andy Burgess has sent me photos of The Trout Inn at Godstow near Oxford. Eventually these will appear on the website. In Pied Piper, The Trout Inn is described as situated next to a weir and Charenton, about to be shot by the Gestapo, asks Howard to drink a pint of beer for him at The Trout Inn 'Sitting on the wall looking at the fish in the pool...' Andy writes: The pub is now a large restaurant and regarded as pretty good by all accounts, it was certainly busy. I didn't stop for a meal or a pint, but I will go back some time. It has also featured in the Inspector Morse programmes on UK TV and their web site mentions this, but not the Shute connection. Until Andy's photo is on our website you can also see the wall and a bit of the pool at Trout Inn at:


G & Z Cline of Washington State, The USA write:

My wife and I just returned from a week in Australia and a week in New Zealand.
It was a wonderful trip and could have gone on for a year if we had the time and money to spend.
One of the best parts was staying two nights at Devon Park, Nevil Shute's former home in Langwarrin, Victoria. We were the first guests to stay there since Lisa & Duncan, the owners, have opened up two cottages as a B & B. They were excellent hosts, warm and caring. I found out about the possibility of staying there from the Shute web site, and am grateful to you for having published the information. I certainly recommend the B & B to any Shutists who would be looking for accommodations in that area. It is not only a chance to see the house and stay in a very nice place, but to meet Lisa, Duncan and their delightful daughter Natasha.

Editor's Comment: Heather Mayfield, Shute's daughter, told me that when they lived there the house was not called Devon Park and had no name yet but, because of the 1950s Australian rabbit plagues, Shute suggested calling the house, located in the district of Langwarrin, 'Rabbit Warren'.


A novel has been published based on the Kensington Runestone called Sherlock Holmes and the Rune Stone Mystery: From the American Chronicles of John H. Watson, M.D.
Also, another newspaper article on the Runestone can be read here.


Jenny Knowles has written that AP Watt have asked to clarify the performance rights for Jenny's play based on Requiem For A Wren. Jenny writes:

The literary agent A P Watt have given permission for the script of the play Requiem for a Wren to be available to the Nevil Shute Norway Foundation.
Should any member of the NSN Foundation wish to print copies of the script and/or perform the play, or should any non-member ask for a copy/copies, he/she must first contact both Jenny Knowles (writer).
and A P Watt Ltd (Literary, Film and Television Agents). Separate permission must be obtained from AP Watt and Jenny Knowles for each use of the script, and well in advance of any performance.


Although Shute was long gone from Airspeed when Hessel Tiltman designed the Horsa glider, I feel it falls within our area of interest. Tim Jenkins writes:

The Assault Glider Project is currently building a full scale replica Airspeed Horsa Mk 1 at an RAF base in the UK.
Please see our website
Upon completion the aircraft will be the only one of its kind in existence.

Editor's Comment: Tim seeks any information that is relevant to the Horsa.
See his website first and contact him (and please copy me) with any new information.
I told Tim of a story I saw somewhere that shadows in the ground of D-Day Horsa Gliders were still visible in aerial photos 40 years after WW2 but I can't locate this story now.
Can anyone help?
I am also still seeking more photos of Hessel Tiltman.
I have a cunning plan to hijack the finished Horsa glider and create a strike force to attack the headquarters of rival literary groups whose favourite authors I don't particularly like.
However once this New Years champagne wears off I may have to rethink this.


Richard Lonmon of The UK writes:

Having been an avid reader and advocate of Nevil Shute's books for the last 35 years (I compiled a complete library of his paperbacks back in the early 1970s) I am amazed that films of his books remain commercially unobtainable and are but little shown on television, if ever these days. Having looked at your web-site I find that there are a number of films available via mail-order but why are they not being produced for the mass market by the major distributors? I am at a loss as to why such ripping and descriptive yarns are being witheld from the viewing public.
Why does the BFI keep tight restrictions on Lonely Road? Why is Pied Piper unavailable? Landfall, too for that matter!
The tales of Nevil Shute cry out to be filmed and those that have been are, in the main, unavailable.
Okay, one reads the books and one's imagination does the rest to colour the stories, but they are so good that they need to be brought to a wider audience, especially as many youngsters will eschew Shute purely because he is not a 'now' author, but make a block-busting film and interest will be generated.

Editor's Comment: As I recall, both Lonely Road and Landfall are involved in long-forgotten and probably not-to-be-resolved-in-our-lifetime legal disputes. We can only hope that those currently holding film rights to Shute's books get around to making the films and doing them well.


Penny Morton of Tasmania, Australia writes:

I've just had a story published in the Tasmanian magazine 40 Degrees South, about the connections between Nevil Shute and Tasmania. The editor has had many phone calls about it and said one of Hobart's bookshops has had several requests for Shute books as a result!

Editor's Comment: I hope to print Penny's article in next month's newsletter.


I have just read an interesting 1956 autobiography by JTC Moore-Brabazon who was a bit of a character and rather energetic. Born in 1884, he was a pioneering racing driver friend of Charles Rolls, a pioneering aviator taking the first pig in an aeroplane to prove pigs could fly, holder of the British Royal Aero Club Pilot Certificate No. 1, a pioneer of aerial photography in WW1, a top golfer, an innovative sailor, a member of several company boards, holder of 2 ministerial posts under Churchill and a champion of the Cresta Run. He was still doing the Cresta Run at the age of 70.
The book also revealed that Moore-Brabazon was a friend of Lord Grimthorpe, a board member of Airspeed, who was also a member of the Cresta Run committee. Therefore it seems reasonable to assume that Shute might have actually known Moore-Brabazon.
The book, published in 1956 by Heineman, is called The Brabazon Story. By Lord Brabazon of Tara, you might find it at a 2nd hand bookshop near you.
The Bristol Brabazon aircraft was named after Moore-Brabazon. The Bristol Brabazon was inspiringly modern when it was designed, but had become endearingly obsolete by the time it flew.

ALICE 2007

Laura Schneider writes:

2006 is upon us, which means our next Conference is just a bit more than a year away!
The traditional rotation of the biennial Nevil Shute Conference bestows the 2007 Conference on Australia.
There was much enthusiasm for an Australian Conference at the Cape Cod Gathering this past October. In particular, there was great enthusiasm for the Conference of 2007 to be held in Alice Springs.
More information will be forthcoming in next month's newsletter.
In the meantime, start thinking about your next or first great Nevil Shute adventure.
While it is summer in Australia, it is definitely winter in the Northern Hemisphere!
Pick up A Town Like Alice or any of the wonderful 'Australian' books.
If you have any thoughts or comments you'd like to share, please feel free to contact me, Laura Schneider.
In the last issue of the Nevil Shute Newsletter, Mike Blamey of the UK said he was looking forward to being the first person to sign up to attend the 2007 Conference. Mike, you're on!


Richard Michalak's Availability / Christmas in Australia
Sun Jan 01 2006
Happy New Year.
We are having classic Australian New Year weather here with lots of hot weather (today's max is 41c / 105.8f and min around 20c / 68f) and the comforting threat of bushfires. For me it's really just not Christmas in Australia if we aren't being threatened by bushfires.
I am now waiting for my 3 favourite headlines that appear each hot summer.


(a tinderbox is a swagman's box of dry stuff to start a fire) and


(usually with a photo of a small child playing with water) and


This last headline is always accompanied by photos of a huge dense crowd at Bondi Beach - probably the same photo from the files each year.
It has become a tradition with our family, and most Sydney-siders, to eat seafood at Christmas time so we celebrated Christmas Eve with some king prawns. These are large shrimp that my wife is squeamish about beheading but very enthusiastic about eating so I hardly get any because as soon as I have peeled hers and then peeled mine, she wants me to peel more for her before I can get a bite. We have the prawns with lemon juice, avocado guacamole and French bread and a nice glass of wine.
On Christmas Day about 7am we had our traditional early swim at the Bronte Beach seawater pool that was built into the rocks at the side of the beach many years ago.
Later in the morning we opened the presents (I got a dish-drainer for my washing up) and then had Christmas lunch in my wife's heavily grape-vined shady garden where we ate cold turkey and ham and salad and plum pudding and custard.
In the evening friends came over for a supper of toasted sandwiches and duty free French champagne eaten outside with candles and fairy lights all around. The mosquitos were kept at bay with repellent.
Today, New years Day, is baking hot and we are hoping to have a harbour side picnic as things cool down.
I hope to have a few more holiday-time swims before 2006 starts in earnest again and I have to get back to my major job, which, being freelance, is to pointlessly worry about the future.
Every New Year some Swedish tourist ignores a safety sign in the Northern Territory and is eaten by a crocodile. Australians usually mark the official end of the Christmas / New Year period with this eagerly anticipated event much as robins and groundhogs herald the coming spring in Europe and The USA.
Consequently I am scanning the newspapers for the sign that my holidays are over and its time to get back to work.
I hope 2006 is an enjoyable, safe and healthy year for you.
All the best from AUTFOD
Richard Michalak
Nevil Shute Foundation Historian and Newsletter Editor
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