Nevil Shute Norway Foundation

April Newsletter

2006-04/April, 2006


Forester died recently aged 91. He was thought to be an inspiration for parts of the characters of possibly both Tom Cutter and Connie Shak Lin in Round The Bend.
Forester joined Airspeed as a 15 year old when the company was in York and moved with it to Portsmouth. He also worked as a ground engineer servicing Cobham's Air Circus planes and continued through the war as a ground engineer.
Forester was 34 when he met Shute again in Karachi in 1949. At that time he was teaching ground engineering to a mixture of races.
At this stage Shute had known Forester on and off for 19 years and seen him grow up.
Forester and Tom Cutter were both born in 1915.
Forester's son Nick says his father was very concerned with professional discipline, precision and accuracy in his work and thought that the description of Connie from Round the Bend as "a good ground engineer with a bee in his bonnet" was also a good description of his father.
Apparently when Shute was coming through Karachi on the way back to England he visited Forester and his friends for dinner at their Chummery and was much impressed with the set-up.
In Round The Bend, Shute has Tom Cutter happily stay on living in the radio operator's Chummery long after he could have afforded an impressive house of his own.
Forester's son Nick is doing a lot of sorting of his father's things and has generously offered to share anything he finds with us.

I am sure you all join with me in sending Forester's family our condolences.


I believe that in Round the Bend, Tom Cutter and Connie Shak Lin contain aspects of the characters and / or the experiences of at least 2 real people: Forester Lindsley and Eddie "EJ" Connellan.
Shute met EJ Connellan in January 1949 in Alice Springs. EJ Connellan had flown a small plane out into the desert in the 1930s and by the time Shute met him he had established a thriving small airline based in Alice Springs. In A Town Like Alice, Connellan Airways is called MacLean Airways.
EJ and his wife, their swimming pool and their lifestyle are all pretty closely described.


As Shute wrote more than one short story on a Lindbergh-like trans-Atlantic attempt and at least one novel based on trans-Atlantic flight I felt it was relevant to include this great site on Lindbergh sent in by CDMN.


Regarding the disappearance of The House of Stratus, Dan Telfair writes:

I have contacted Linda Shaughnessy (of AP Watt, Shute's Literary Agents), and she assures me that House of Stratus is not dead, and that she is negotiating a new contract with them. Based on my experience trying to reestablish contact with them, they may be alive, but they are certainly in hiding. There doesn't seem to be anyone else mass printing NSN books now, so the bicycle shop may have to serve as a used book store for the time being. Hopefully, that will change with AP Watt's new contract with House of Stratus. By the way, added to the "Bicycle Shop and Nevil Shute Bookstore", we have "The Finest Kind Whorehouse and Pediatric Hospital" from MASH (the book), and a shop that existed here in Albuquerqe for a number of years that was the "Used Television and Canary Store". I actually met the owner once. He was a retired US Navy electronic technician who liked to refurbish old TV sets, and had a passion for canaries.

Editor's Comment: Since Dan's letter, the latest Stop-Press sad revelation is that House of Stratus is now in receivership. Hopefully this is something like Chapter 11 in the USA and they can trade their way out of their difficulties. As a small businessman myself I can only send House of Stratus my deepest sympathy. We need companies like them to survive or all there will be to read will be whatever the majority wants. Whatever that is, it is more likely to be something about Porn Stars and Football Players than Nevil Shute characters. I wish them luck. (The House of Stratus that is, not the Porn Stars and the Football Players - they are prospering and multiplying without my good wishes)


Jan Westell writes:

What a wonderful site, and have enjoyed it very much.
I believe that N. Shute is the Charles Dickens of the 20th Century, and discovered his books on a holiday in the British Columbia Gulf Islands, in a cottage that my family rented.

Editor's Comment: All holiday cottages should have a complete set of old, ragged and yellowing Nevil Shute paperbacks with dated cover illustrations. I wonder if the rumour I am circulating that Shute also ghost-wrote most of Dickens' works will take hold and get Shute the universal literary recognition he deserves.


Lynsey McLean of Egolshayle, Cornwall, The UK has been researching his house.
Only in the process has he discovered Nevil Shute's connection with his village. Lynsey had read Shirley Norway's (Nevil Shute's daughter) account of Nevell Norway's murder on the website and, having done further research, writes with some updated information on Nevil Shute's murdered relative. Lynsey writes:

Nevell Norway was a merchant living in Egloshayle. He was murdered by the Lightfoot brothers in February 1840. They were hung at Bodmin goal on April 13th 1840 but were not the last to be hanged in public. The last person to be hanged in public at Bodmin was John Doidge in 1862.
Nevell Norway was 30 when he was murdered. He left a wife, Sarah, and six children un-provided for. The people of Wadebridge and Egloshayle collected £3500 for them.
Sarah his wife died six months after Nevell was murdered.
The above information is written on the headstone of Nevell Norway's grave in Egloshayle Churchyard
Nevell's brother was Captain Edmund Norway a captain of the merchant ship Orient. On 8th February 1840 the Orient was sailing west of St Helena, proceeding from Manila to Cadiz. That night he wrote a letter to his brother, and later dreamt that his brother had been attacked and murdered.
I have had a quick look through my papers and it looks as though Nevell Norway was Nevil Shute's Great Grandfather.
Nevil Shute's father had an older brother called Nevell. Their father was Arthur S Norway, who I believe was the son of the murdered Nevell Norway and would have been about nine years old at the time of the murder.
I can see the churchyard where Nevell Norway is buried, from my cottage.

Editor's Comment: This letter prompted me to ask Heather Mayfield, Nevil Shute's other daughter, whether she had more information on this subject.
Heather very promptly did some digging and replied:

I have located a letter that my Dad wrote in February 1942, to an unknown person, in which he says, in part: "Nevell Norway, to use the correct spelling of his name, was my great grandfather. He was not a historical figure. He was a shipowner in Wadebridge, in Cornwall, running a small fleet of schooners and ketches importing timber and exporting iron ore. He was a straight, hard-working man whose short life was saddened by business worries as the trade of the countryside shifted from the little harbours to the big ones. There was no mystery about his death. He was brutally murdered for a few pounds that he carried. So little detection was needed to secure the murderers that they were detected, arrested, charged, committed, tried at the next Assizes, sentenced to death, and hung, all within the space of two months from the night of the murder. In my family, his Christian name is a common one, and I bear it myself."
Later in the letter he says:
"He was a hard driven, anxious man like most of us. As a boy he was sent to Leyden in Holland for two years to learn languages, without which shipping business cannot be conducted... All his relations were ships officers or naval officers, but that was not for him; he was only 17 when his father died, and he came home to struggle with a business that was no longer prosperous. His father's captains stood by him and did all they could; between them they battled on against their difficulties for twenty years, till, in 1840, he was murdered and the business came to an end. There was no need for any detective to assist the course of Justice. There was another Nevil Norway living only seven miles away, a cousin and a Commander in the Royal Navy, just retired. He did all the detecting that was necessary in this very simple case. The murderers were two poor, half starved, brutish labourers; in fact, the whole story was a tragedy of changing social conditions. On the night of the murder, a brother, Edmund Norway, first officer of the ship Orient, had a most curious and thoroughly authenticated supernatural experience which will be found detailed in THE EDGE OF THE UNKNOWN by the late Conan Doyle."

Editor's Further Comment:
I found the line "He was a hard driven, anxious man like most of us" interesting as it very much sounds that this is how Nevil Shute would describe himself. I always find his books extremely calming and I wonder if he specifically wrote that way as an antidote to being "a hard driven, anxious man".
Readers may remember that Arthur Conan Doyle was involved with some of the psychic research that followed the R101 airship crash which I believe then inspired much of Shute's 1948 novel No Highway. With stories of psychic experiences in his own family and then the heavily publicised psychic investigations in the aftermath of the R101 crash it no longer seems so odd that Shute, an engineer, was ready to incorporate these kinds of experiences into his novels.


Mike Hobart writes:

Discussions of the Grand Panjandrum and Shute's work on Secret Weapons always brings to mind the old comic book THE BLACKHAWKS which some of your older readers may recall.
From 1952 onwards, there were many appearances by a captured secret weapon called The War Wheel which is sort of a bigger and better version of the gadget above. Click here to go to their web site.


John Anderson has supplied the following information on the Oxford weekend:

The purpose of the weekend is to give Shutists an opportunity to visit some of the places where Nevil Shute spent his formative years, and locations which feature in some of his novels.
Friday 12th May
Meet up at the Galaxie Hotel in the afternoon or early evening.
Saturday 13th May
Visit The Dragon School and also have lunch.
Walk from the Dragon School into Oxford via Crick Road (where Janet Prentice lived in Requiem for a Wren) and Norham Gardens (where the Lockwood's house was in An Old Captivity) and also pass the Jenkin Building of the Department of Engineering Science. Shute would have studied here during his Engineering Course in 1919-22.
Visit Balliol College in Broad Street, Group photograph in the courtyard at Balliol, Explore the College grounds and view the college chapel.
Visit the famous Bodleian Library behind which is the Radcliffe Camera. This is now a Reading Room of the Bodleian and is not open to the public. But you will be able to see the parapet where Stephen Morris and Helen Riley met in "Stephen Morris"
There is a tea shop not far from the Carfax. Although it will be a busy Saturday afternoon we should be able to get tea & scones there.
Gather at the Cherwell Boathouse restaurant for drinks and then the reunion dinner.
The Restaurant is adjacent to the Dragon School and overlooks the river. In this stretch of river Shute first went boating and fishing.
Sunday 14th May
After breakfast Laura Schneider, who has been in Alice Springs on a planning trip for the 2007 Nevil Shute event, can bring us collectively up to date on her trip and the planning so far.
Then to the Trout Inn at Godstow (about a 15 minute drive) for lunch. The Trout Inn is mentioned in "Pied Piper" where Charenton asked Howard to "Go there and drink a pint for me..sitting on the wall and looking at the fish in the pool, on a hot summers day"
So far about 18 people are going.
Will you be there?
Contact John Anderson at:


Alison Jenner of The UK has written suggesting that the colour scheme of Shute's plane, Item Willie, which was Silver with Green lettering, might have been an homage to Amy Johnson's plane which was Green with Silver lettering.
We will never really know but we do know that Amy Johnson was an original shareholder in Airspeed and we also believe that much of Brenda Marshall in The Rainbow and The Rose was modelled on Amy Johnson so the influences were certainly there.


John Anderson who has been researching the real events behind Landfall, writes:

I have just bought a secondhand copy of a book called The Stick and the Stars written by Commander William King who was captain of HMS Snapper from 1939. He describes the attack on his submarine in December 1939 off the Dutch coast. An aircraft was spotted and the sub dived immediately and the bomb burst very close to them. When they surfaced later King writes:
"Then I read the routine wireless signals and knew consternation indeed. A British Coastal Command aircraft had reported to its base: 'Have sunk a German U Boat in position ---- (not far from ours) at ---- hours' (almost the same time as we were bombed)."
"We had not been able to identify the nationality of this plane which had so nearly done us in, but a glum suspicion crept into our minds the we had been that U boat."
The incident caused long argument between the Navy and the Air Force authorities.
He also writes '... we had nearly been sunk by what we believed was a British bomb...'
This incident happened on Sunday 3rd December 1939, the same day as Jerry Chambers made his attack on a submarine in Landfall, and the same day as "Pilot Officer Harper of 206 Squadron earned a DFC for his attack on a surfaced U-boat on the 3rd December in the same year." (according to one website) but I haven't been able to confirm this from 206 Squadron combat reports.
On the 12th December Shute attended the 4th meeting of the Toraplane Committee at Admiralty House Portsmouth. Also present at this meeting was Air Commodore Howe, CO of 17 Group which included a squadron of Ansons based at RAF Thorney Island.
The more I delve into this the more convinced I am that Shute got to hear about the Snapper incident and adapted it into the plot for Landfall.
All I need to find out now is which Squadron carried out the accidental bombing and if some pilot really did earn a DFC for it!
Back to combat reports at the National Archives!

Editor's Comment: No wonder the censors had Shute in their sights by the time he wrote Most Secret. He must have already been sailing close to the wind using real events actually happening on the real dates in heavily censored wartime Britain. However it's possible nobody noticed with Landfall but became wary with Most Secret.


Art Cornell writes:

As Vice President of the Nevil Shute Norway Foundation, I have been asked to facilitate the establishment of more Nevil Shute Chapters or Clubs.
At the present time there are four chapters that I am aware of: New Jersey, Cape Cod, Colorado and Mission, British Columbia.
If there are additional chapters in existence, please let me know at
We would like to get them listed on the Foundation website.
Most of the presently active chapters meet three or four times a year and discuss Nevil Shute and one of his books. The Colorado Chapter now discusses a non-Shute book every other meeting. Some of the chapters meet at a library and others meet at a member's home. One chapter has been active since 1992. Another was just formed in 2006.
If you would like to start a chapter and would like some ideas on how to get started, please contact me at


John Page has written in with Shute-reminiscent true story about the 1941 round the world flight of a Pan Am Boeing 314 Clipper. The Clipper was caught in New Zealand by Pearl Harbor and had to keep flying west around the world to get back to the USA.
You can read the story at


Recently Scott Morelen wrote asking if I could recommend any authors whose writings were similar and compare to Shute favourably in style and content. I replied that:

In my opinion it is virtually impossible to find anyone remotely like Shute.
I know this sounds like an annoying cop-out but if there was anyone we agreed was similar in style and quality he would be all over our website.
When this question has arisen in the past as it often does, there is just no broad agreement on the answer.
Neither is there any notably consistent author that always pops up when you just ask what other author's Shute fans like regardless of Shute-ishness or not.
Most Shute fans end up reading and re-reading Shute.
I am sorry that this is such an unsatisfactory answer and I wish there was a better one.

I continued that if Scott read one Shute a month it would take 2 years to finish the lot and that this process could be easily repeated 10 times over the next 20 years.
Scott replied that he was going to begin that same process that all us Shute fans are enjoyably condemned to and was beginning the re-reading and re-re-reading and re-re-re-reading process.


Dan Telfair writes:

After the CapeCod2005 dust settled, Steph Gallagher of UK2003 fame volunteered to do an after-event survey pertaining to CapeCod2005. She sent out questionnaires to participants regarding the event, the schedule, the speakers, the food, what went right, what went wrong, etc. She also sent questionnaires to some who had responded to CapeCod2005 publicity, but opted not to participate, asking why they decided not to attend, etc. After receiving numerous responses, Steph did a tremendous job of tabulating the results, both numerically, and by narrative response. The results are far too detailed to be presented in the Newsletter, but they are available to all interested parties from Steph, Art Cornell, Laura Schneider, or Dan Telfair. Just call, write or e-mail, and you can have your very own analysis of the fourth International Nevil Shute Norway Convention. Something I noticed in one of the narrative portions, was that someone asked about financial accountability for the event, and suggested that since we are a membership organization, we should all have access to a detailed accounting of event costs, profits and losses, etc. Voila!! Seek and ye shall find; Ask and ye shall be answered. For anyone wanting to know financial details, and/or any other aspect of the planning and conduct of CapeCod2005, Art Cornell has written an informative and exhaustive report of all aspects of event planning and conduct, including a financial breakdown of costs down to the penny. His report was primarily designed to assist future event planners, but anyone else who wants the minute details may obtain the report from Art, Laura or Dan. The e-addresses of all above referenced Shutists are available on the NSN Website. If you don't know how to access the Website or obtain info such as "luminaries"' addresses, shame on you!

Note: The Survey Results are available here for direct download.
Note that this is a good-sized PDF file. Downloading may take a while if you have a slow internet connection. You will also need the Adobe Acrobat Reader to open them.


Mike Berliner of The USA is planning to visit Normanton and maybe even the real site of the fictional Willstown in A Town like Alice.
For those with detailed maps of North Queensland, Willstown was sited on the Gilbert River 3 miles from the sea. It is northeast of Normanton.
I suggested that Mike might even have to hire a small plane to get to the area as I couldn't see roads on the map I once had. I have since tried to find a detailed map of North Queensland showing the Gilbert River online but can't find one.
Can anyone help?
Mike writes:

The main issue seems to be what Normanton is like.
Perhaps one of the newsletter subscribers has been there recently and knows if it is at least somewhat similar to (or evokes) pre-Jean Willstown.
That its population is only about 2,500 is promising, but I'd hate to get there a find that it looks pretty much like a modernized American small town.
Or someone might know of a much better town to visit.
Wondering about the above got me thinking about a little-discussed aspect of travel.
Although like Jean I'm pro-development, some vacations are much more enjoyable if the visitor can step back into the past.
So, what's good for the locals (in terms of actually living there) may not be so good for the visitor.
In the 1980s, after getting hooked on the All Creatures Great and Small books and BBC series about a vet in Yorkshire England during the 1930s and 40s, my wife and I decided to visit the Yorkshire Dales. It was (and still is) like stepping into the pages of the books and consequently a much more satisfying vacation than we had even anticipated.
So, we're hoping that we can replicate that experience, at least in some small way.

Editor's Comment:
Has anyone actually been to Normanton recently and can they tell us what it is like?
If you can please email Mike asap and send a copy to me.
I am sure all of you, like me, are interested to hear the results of Mike's trip and wish we were going.
Shute indicated Burketown as the town most like the fictional Willstown but mentioned Normanton and other towns as much the same type of dreadful place.
Willstown's name is a joke because Burketown is named after Burke of Burke and Wills who were a famous historical team like Lewis and Clarke or Stanley and Livingston. Some information about Burketown can be found on Dan Telfair's fascinating story of his flying visit to that area. It is on the website here.


Kate Jones of The USA writes:

I have been wondering about something for a long time and wonder if you or some other Shuties might help me. Along with N Shute, three of my favorite people are C. S. Lewis, William Barclay (Theology Professor, preacher & prolific writer of Bible commentary), and Eric Liddell (missionary and Olympic runner -- Chariots of Fire).
All four were close in age and lived relatively close in England/Scotland for at least part of their lives.
Liddell died a POW in WWII in China, but the others lived about the same number of years.
I don't expect I will ever read all their papers, but have read their biographies.
I noted no meetings among them.
This is no big deal, but you guys and gals are so knowledgeable, I can't resist an opportunity some brain picking.

Editor's Comment:
I haven't ever heard of any meetings.
Shute claimed not to mix with other authors and as far as I can tell they moved in quite different circles.
Sadly, Shute didn't keep a diary except when travelling so we have no records of his meetings.
Many of you will know that CS Lewis wrote the fabulous Narnia children's novels and that the wonderful film Shadowlands starring Anthony Hopkins was based on some of his life.


The next Nevil Shute Norway Conference will be held April 22-27, 2007 in Alice Springs, Australia.
The Conference site details are being ironed out and as soon as they are official, they will be posted on the Foundation's web site.
If you have any questions you want/need answered ASAP, please email me.


I have just returned to Sydney this morning after a trip to Indonesia and am jet-lagged so please forgive any typos and bad grammar in this edition of the newsletter.
Jakarta was pleasant for hot and humid Jakarta and Sydney continues to be rather perfect sunny and warm Autumn weather.
I hope you are all well.
Richard Michalak, Nevil Shute Foundation Newsletter Editor and Historian


Write in if you want your name listed and would like to get together with other Shutists in your vicinity.


Jim Wells lives in Lindfield, Sydney
Richard Michalak lives in Paddington, Sydney


Julian Stargardt


Bruce A Clarke lives in Bangkok


Jim & Kristi Woodward live in Broken Arrow (east of Tulsa), Oklahoma, USA.
Priscilla Pruitt lives near Bellingham, Washington State
(Priscilla will move to Thousand Oaks near LA in 2006)
Bill McCandless lives in Joliet near Chicago.