Nevil Shute Norway Foundation

August Newsletter

2006-08/August, 2006


Apology #1

The newsletter will be late coming to your mailbox this month. Again I am overseas at the change of the month but hope to be home soon. I can't do a mass mailing from overseas.

Apology #2

Last newsletter I offended a reader with my rather excessively savage comments on Frankie Yancovic's rendition of Too Fat Polka. The reader reminded me this is the definitive version of the song and a Polka classic. After further checking, it would now seem very likely that Frankie Yancovic's recording may be the actual version of the song that Shute enjoyed so much when he visited Australia in 1948-49 so my face is now really quite red.

Apology #3

I also upset another reader who had emailed me questions on the understanding they were not to go in the newsletter. In a last minute rush, instead of using the reader's general points in a rewritten editorial as I intended, I mistakenly included some of the embargoed comments. I apologise again.

Please, where possible, don't send me emails that you don't want to possibly find in the newsletter as my huge overworked staff of journalists; (me with a hat with a press card in it), sub editors; (me wearing a green eyeshade with an old Remington typewriter in front of me and shouting "Copy Boy!"), copy boys; (me aged 17 with pimples, wearing shorts and being desperately in love with another me dressed as Lois Lane wearing an impossibly tight skirt), printers; (me, grizzled, gruff, fat and middle aged with ink everywhere from trying to refill my cartridges with cheap ink) and gum-chewing paper boys; (guess who?) get easily confused and can't keep track of what is embargoed or not. While trying to avoid being too wishy-washy it is not my intention to offend readers.


I know that headline looks like the worst example of a bad attempt at hyping up a staid and stuffy newsletter and turning it into the next Harry Potter novel, but amazingly there may be a tenuous link to justify it.
Robin Walton of the UK has produced a documentary on Hayling Island and its history.
As a Roman and mediæval port, Robin suggests, the Grail Treasure may have landed there when it was spirited away from France by the Templars. In the documentary Robin reports stories that have circulated on Hayling Island since WW2 that Shute attended séances in an old barn on Hayling early in the war. The séances were rumoured to have been held with the encouragement of some arm of the government. The aim was to contact the spirits of monks who lived about 800 years before to discover documents holding scientific secrets of great military potential. These same monks were thought to have handled the Grail Treasure when it was smuggled out of France. Frank Dunster and Victor Pearce Jones, both locals on Hayling Island, have made the claims regarding the Shute séances. Shute's estate manager, Charlie Wilson, is said to have stood guard during the séances.

Robin Walton writes:

Apparently Frank Dunster got the story from Roy Smith, who was handyman and general factotum to Admiral Fisher, a close friend of Shute, who lived at Quay Cottage close to Pond Head House. Shute and Admiral Fisher were both members of Hayling Sailing Club and the Salt House and the Wendy House (séance locations) were on Fisher's property. Unfortunately Roy died a couple of years ago, so cannot be questioned further.

Editor's Comment Continues:
Robin's video shows the barn that was allegedly used and has actors re-enacting the scene. Interestingly, the actor portraying Shute is a very good likeness. The video is available for purchase. I enjoyed it but must warn Shute enthusiasts that it is principally a program about Hayling Island's history and the Shute segment is only a small section at the beginning and the end. Robin's extensive research has also revealed that Hayling Island was a hotbed of spiritualism during the early 20th century. Although this whole story still only amounts to unverifiable hearsay, the general idea of Shute attending a séance is not at all inconsistent with Shute's interests as expressed through his many books including No Highway which features a séance using a planchette or ouija board. Shute must also have been aware of the psychic research séances conducted after the crash of R101. The séances from R101 were said to reveal many complex technical details that the medium could not possibly have known. To get a copy of the DVD contact Robin at or by telephone on +44[0]2392718441. It retails at £13.95 plus P&P.


Sadly, a search of the bookshelves of Churchill's home, Chartwell, has revealed he owned no Shute books.
However, John Anderson has written regarding Shute and Churchill:

In October 1939 Churchill, as First Lord of the Admiralty, set up the Toraplane Committee under the Chairmanship of Admiral Sir William James.
Both Sir Dennis Burney and Shute served on that Committee and Shute attended several meetings of both the main committee and also of sub-committees.
To that extent one might regard Churchill as Shute's ultimate boss until the Burney Toraplane was abandoned in March 1940.
Shute was an unpaid consultant and a civilian - he did not join the Navy until June 1940 - but he devoted a lot of time and effort on the Toraplane development.
I have no information as to whether Churchill ever met Shute, probably not.
However Churchill's scientific advisor, Professor Lindemann, did meet the Burney team, which would have included Shute, and Burney certainly had meetings with Churchill as First Lord in connection with the Toraplane project.

Editor's Comment: Only recently I read in Churchill's excellent biography by Sir Martin Gilbert that, as First Lord of The Admiralty in 1915, Churchill proposed the firing of Torpedoes from seaplanes. 25 years later, in 1939-40 and again as First Lord of The Admiralty after a 25-year break, he was able to back improvements to the idea with the Toraplane radio-controlled gliding torpedo project.
As Prime Minister, he saw The Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm's successful air-launched torpedo attack against the Italian fleet at Taranto, which the Japanese later copied at Pearl Harbor.
Churchill was a great weapons innovator and was instrumental in the development of the Tank. Well before WW1 and when already technically middle aged, he took flying lessons. He was a promoter of all forms of aviation.
Churchill's home, Chartwell, is now a tourist attraction. I hope to visit it next time I am in The UK. See some great pictures of Chartwell by googling Chartwell in Google Images.
The National Trust's Chartwell site is at:


Charles D. of Dalton, MN, The USA writes:

Churchill is mentioned in the "Book of Names", otherwise called "An Old Captivity". On about page 4, it states that Ross flew to Churchill while he worked as a bush pilot in Canada.
Churchill, the town, is named after Winston Churchill's ancestor who was the leader of the Hudson Bay Company fur traders.
In other words, the Churchill family fortune was based, at least partly, on beaver furs trapped by Canadian Indians and sold for low-value trade goods.
The fur trading "wars" were a big part of the history of the region where I live.
The British vs. the French vs. the Americans.
The natives always lost.


Alison Jenner writes:

If I may I'd like to reply, through your newsletter, to all the kind expressions of support and goodwill that I have received since the broadcasting of my heat of 'Mastermind' recently.
I had had no idea that there would be so much interest; you will be glad to hear that quite a few people have contacted me to say that NSN was/is their favourite writer or declaring their intention of reading one or other of his books afresh, especially Chequer Board because of its 'extract digit' joke quoted. I must want my head examined but certainly learnt a good deal about programme making during the process.
I also, extraordinarily, had a letter forwarded by the BBC from a gentleman in Essex offering secondhand copies of Shute's books for sale on behalf of his local church. I told him I would forward details to any Shutist who did not already have copies of Lonely Road, Rainbow, Requiem, What Happened to the Corbetts and No Highway. Anyone interested, contact or phone 01992 575233.
Back to reality: I appreciated the newsletter comment which led to your enjoyable feature upon "The Dishmop" in No Highway.
This starlet also makes an appearance in Stella Gibbons' Cold Comfort Farm (1932), set in darkest Sussex where orphaned Flora Poste goes to stay on the eponymous farm with her neurotic relations the Starkadders and especially Aunt Ada Doom, who famously 'saw something nasty in the woodshed.'
Anyone who has hurled a copy of DH Lawrence across the room will warm to her magnificently comic novel. All that mollocking amongst the sukebind can have only one result.
Flora encourages Adam to use a dishmop instead of his preferred twigs to 'cletter the dishes.' Despite his apparent resistance to change there are suggestions that he can be won over and can be seen crooning about his 'liddle mop.' Indeed towards the end of the story he is seen leaving CCF for a new home with the mop "slung around his neck."
In this work, the dishmop represents, depending upon your point of view, the up to date / new-fangled 1930s attitudes compared to the time-honoured / barbaric traditions represented by the twigs. Nowadays we might see the use of thorn twigs as a symbol of sustainable environmental practice.
If we thought that Shute read a lot of fiction we could see him being clear -sighted about the advantages brought by science and at the same time sentimental about the kitchen traditions. In employing the fictive device of the dishmop he was combining the idea of the mop-as-modern-replacement with the mop-as-object-of-veneration. Might he have read the very popular Cold Comfort Farm?
But Elspeth clearly doesn't see the mop as a dolly; her scornful retort to Scott's suggestion that it was her dolly tells us she knows exactly what she's got there.

Editor's Comment: Those who are mystified by "mollocking amongst the sukebind" or perhaps rather excited by the idea of seeing "something nasty in the woodshed" should read Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons.
Stella Gibbons coined the phrase "something nasty in the woodshed" in Cold Comfort Farm.
Cold Comfort Farm was a literary hit in 1932 when Shute was starting his family.
No Highway was published in 1948.


Those wishing to contribute to the Discussion Page on John Anderson's website must join it and list their comments themselves at John's website.
Please don't send discussion posts to me for posting, as I can't post them for you. However I welcome getting a copy of any questions or comments you were going to post on the Discussion Page for possible use in the newsletter.

A Note from your Webmeister: The Discussion Link in this website now connects you to John's discussion forum, so you have two routes to that forum.


A final report on the Snapper Incident and its connection with Landfall is available from John Anderson at:
The report is a masterpiece of research and a great read.


Two readers have generously taken photos of Shutes second home at 26 Corfton Road in Ealing, in The UK.
Sadly the house is much changed at least on the outside and looks rather modern now.
This is probably good for the owner's real estate investment portfolio but is a bit sad for historical romantics like me. In the photos I had really hoped to see governesses in Edwardian hats supervising children with hoops and sticks outside and a 1903 vintage car being driven by some colonel with a big moustache. Sadly, none of these appear.
The photos will be included in the next website photo album update.


John Anderson has also reminded me that we also need a photo of 23 Oakwood Court (suburb not certain) presumably in London, which was Shute's family home in 1918-19. Arthur Norway's letters about Nevil's admission to Balliol were addressed from there and also one of Nevil's letters to Balliol when he was on leave.


In the many reader's responses to comments about un-favourite Shute novels, Requiem For A Wren and On The Beach got fairly equal numbers of negative votes. Also mentioned as un-favoured books were Beyond The Black Stump and Round The Bend.


When responding regarding un-favourite Shutes, the following were mentioned in fairly equal numbers as favourite Shute novels:
An Old Captivity, The Far Country, Round The Bend, The Seafarers and Requiem For A Wren.


Mills Dyer writes:

I have always wondered if the "negative" tone of On The Beach and Requiem were related to Shute's having a second heart attack in 1954 (Julian Smith biography) and having to deal with his own mortality. If this were the situation, the "positive" tone of Rainbow and the Rose and Trustee might be an indication that he had come to grips with his health situation.
This may be too simplistic an interpretation, and I'm no psychiatrist.
Regarding your review of Beyond the Black Stump, I (as an American) do not take it as an anti-American diatribe. I think it is probably pretty realistic - especially the reaction of Stanton's family to Mollie's rather unusual family arrangements - especially for the mid 1950's. If the story were taking place today, I would like to think that such an American family would be more open to the situation - but then, of course, there would be no story/plot!
Other aspects of the story such as Stanton's shallow religious faith, Chuck's "having fun with train engines", and the "high-tech" drilling expedition descent on rural Australia also ring true to me.
Not that Stanton and Chuck are typical Americans of the period, but I have met such people. [I'm about 15 years younger than Stanton & Chuck and served in the Air Force including a tour in Vietnam/Thailand in 1971-1972.]
If I ranked Shute stories from most to least enjoyable, this one would be towards the bottom of the list, but I'm sure I'll read it again.


Roger Harris of Toronto, Canada writes:

I have to respectfully disagree with your negative comments on Beyond the Black Stump, which is one of my favourite Shute novels.
I don't find that the book has an "obsessive anti-American flavour". Admittedly, most of the American characters are puritanical and rather narrow in their interests and perspectives.
On the other hand, Shute was careful to illustrate their friendliness, industriousness, and essential decency. This portrayal of Americans is generally true (in my own experience, anyway), though - like all stereotypes - subject to notable exceptions.
All nationalities have their strengths and weaknesses, and, speaking as a Canadian, I am happy to have America as our next-door neighbour.


Bill Hill of Prescott, Arizona, The USA writes in response to Tony Woodward's letter in the July newsletter:

I read your letter in the latest NSN Newsletter, and I couldn't agree more.
I believe that On the Beach is not only depressing in the extreme, but poorly written from the standpoint of character development, dialog, etc. I do not re-read it.
I believe that it is the main reason that Shute is not more widely read at present.
When I was in high school, it was one of those books teachers gleefully required us to read to point all of us in the right (and more pacifist and consequently more well-socialized) direction.
I was in my late forties before I (re)discovered Shute in second-hand bookstores.
What a revelation!
What a dirty trick it was to implant the notion in impressionable high schoolers that NSN was such a lousy writer!
I guess in a perfect world these "teachers" would have had us read Round The Bend or In The Wet or...
Anyway thanks for giving voice to something I had felt for a long time.

Editor's Comment: Over the years I get the impression that maybe more harm than good was done to Shute's potential readership by the setting of On The Beach as a required text in American schools. Was anyone inspired to read more Shute because they were forced to read him as a school text ?


Gail Field of Brisbane, Australia writes:

"Requiem for a Wren" which is the one I have reread the least, is beautifully written and I reread it the least merely as it depresses me, but I still enjoy the read, if that makes any sense, and the same with "On the Beach".
As a rule I always take two Nevil Shutes on holiday with me as I know I will have a good read and, with a toddler to look after, it doesn't matter if the train of thought is interrupted as I still know what's going on.


Bruce Clarke of Bangkok, Thailand writes:

You may be interested to know that the hotel Shute stayed in when he came to Bangkok, the Trocadero is still standing albeit now a very run down place.
It was renowned when it was built as being the only fully air-conditioned building in Bangkok. Maybe that is why Nevil Shute stayed there.

Editor's Comment: I managed to google some images of The Trocadero which is now called The New Trocadero Hotel. Included is a photo from the 2nd edition of a tour guide published in 1950. Assuming the photo was from the earlier 1st edition, can anyone identify the dates of the cars in the photo. They certainly look post war.
Shute was there in 1948 - 1949.
Maybe he was inside when the photo was taken? Does that shadowy profile just visible through the shutters of one of the windows look familiar?
The hotel is now rather down market so don't expect to visit the Ritz.
Better to take your time machine back to 1948 and meet Shute for tea in the lobby and then go out to the airport and see him check the spark plugs on Item Willie before waving him off.
You can see the pictures here.


Brian Wickland of McLean, Virginia, The USA writes:

From some of your members' past comments, I note a theme to compare NSN with other authors.
One author's name I have not seen mentioned is someone who would have been a contemporary of his -- the American author, Ernest K. Gann. From what little I know about him, his background was more in commercial aviation (piloting) than NSN's technical and entrepreneurial background.
You are probably familiar with the film, The Power and The Glory (ca. 1955), which has recently been re-issued on DVD and which -- I have read -- has evoked considerable mirth as today's generations see how well aircraft passengers were treated back in the early '50s!
Of the two authors, my favourite remains NSN, who was more adept in folding a good love interest into the yarn.
I wonder whether the two authors were aware of each other. If they had met, I'm sure they would have got on famously.

Editor's Comment: I particularly like Gann's 1961 autobiographical book called Fate is The Hunter, which is about his experiences as an airline pilot.
So far we have no record of Shute and Gann ever having met.


At the suggestion of Chris Henry of New Zealand and others, below are the questions that Alison Jenner faced in Mastermind on the BBC.
These questions were laboriously transcribed from a tape of the program by Mike Meehan. Mike's remote control finger may never recover.
The answers will appear in next month's newsletter.

Q1: What is the name of the Australian town that Jean Paget wants to turn into 'A Town Like Alice' in Nevil Shute's novel of that title?
Q2: With which army regiment did Shute serve as a reservist during the last year of the First World War?
Q3: In which part of the South Pacifc is the fishing boat 'Mary Belle' put into quarantine in 'Trustee From The Toolroom'?
Q4: In 'Stephen Morris', which of Stephen's rivals asks Helen Riley to marry him?
Q5: According to his autobiography, where did Shute spend his time while he was playing truant from his prep school in Hammersmith?
Q6: According to Shute's novel, the Marazan Sound lies between Pendruan and which other island in the Isles of Scilly?
Q7: In May '36 Shute's Airspeed company built two prototypes of which radio controlled target aircraft for the Air Ministry?
Q8: In 'Landfall', Chambers is unable to see the conning tower of the submarine, so on which other part of the submarine does he look for markings to establish the vessel's identity before he sinks it?
Q9: In 'The Chequer Board', after the Japanese abandoned the gaol in Rangoon the prisoners write 'Japs Gone' on one side of the roof. What did they write on the other side when they were impatient for release?
Q10: Shute was working as a designer on which airship when he wrote his second published novel 'So Disdained'?
Q11: 'Beyond The Black Stump' begins with the young geologist Stanton Laird having to choose between an assignment in Australia and in which other country?
Q12: In 'Pastoral' which song does Captain Marshall sing while he is waiting to land his damaged aeroplane for the last time?
Q13: Of whom did Shute write of in his autobiography "If he had lived we might have had some real books one day not the sort of stuff I turn out" ?
Q14: What did Shute describe as "The worst film that's ever been made of one of my books" in a letter to his friend Dr. Gilstrap in 1959?
Q15: In 'Lonely Road' what does Mollie Gordon's brother attach to the front and back of his lorry enabling her to identify it?
Q16: Which of Shute's novels was banned from publication from 1942 until the end of the Second World War because Admiralty censors considered its content too sensitive?


Laura Schneider writes:

The early response for next year's conference is terrific!
Thanks to all who have contacted me with regards to their plans for the conference.
For those who are planning on attending, hoping to attend and/or are considering attending, please let me hear from you!
Room rates for next year's conference have been posted here. Check out details on room descriptions and room rates in AU and US Dollars, Euros and Pounds.
John Anderson has posted my February interview on the local ABC radio station in Alice Springs. The interview took place before the conference dates had been set but there's a bit of information about previous conferences, Nevil Shute's Legacy '07 and Alice Springs.
Go to Click on Media links and follow the prompt for Laura's interview (#1). There is an error in the interview but kind-hearted Shutists will refrain from pointing it out.
I know what I said and what I meant to say. So will you!

Editor's Comment: You can hear Laura's interview here.


Laura Schneider writes:

On August 16, there will be a 50th anniversary screening of A Town Like Alice at the Pioneer Theatre in Alice Springs, where the original premiere was held in 1956. The organizers of this event are hoping to erect a small, permanent exhibition at the Pioneer Theatre to coincide with this occasion. Jimmie Edwards, the model for Joe Harmon and his wife Pauline, attended the 1956 screening as guests of Nevil.


Oren Wolfe, the website's webmeister writes:

The text size displayed is determined by two things: Settings in the email client program used by the sender to write the email, and by similar text size settings in the one you use to read the email (Outlook Express, Thunderbird, Entourage, Apple Mail).
If the email arrives with the font size set too small you can correct it in your receiver with the Text Size control.
I use Mozilla Thunderbird, and the control is under the View selection on the main menu bar.
If you are using Apple Mail (on a Mac) to read emails, go to the Main Menu bar and select Format>Style>Bigger to increase text size.
If you are authoring emails with Apple Mail, look for the Fonts button on the draft document (the window that pops up when you click on New in the Main window.)

Editor's Comment: I hope this helps some readers.
Except for the Virus and Spam warnings which are in 10pt Arial font, I always send out the body of the newsletter in 12pt Arial font, which is considered a standard acceptable internet email font size by many organizations.


Again I have returned to perfect weather here in Sydney.
I hope you are all planning to attend Alice 2007. Alice Springs still seems to have the same qualities that attracted Shute when he visited there in 1949.
I hope you are all well.


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
Ruth Pearson lives in Adelaide


Julian Stargardt


Bruce A Clarke lives in Bangkok


Joy Hogg, Harrietta Michigan (northern lower Michigan, near Traverse City and Cadillac)
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.