Nevil Shute Norway Foundation

November Newsletter

2006-11/November, 2006


Dan Telfair writes:

Good news!
The US Library is up and running again after brief hiatus.
Those needing to borrow reading copies of any of Nevil's books, audio dramatizations (Recorded Books, Books on Tape, etc.), videos of movies based on his books, or any number of associated items should visit the Library Page of the Website.
There is never any charge other than postage for borrowing anything, and items are normally delivered three to four days after a loan request is received.
To borrow a book contact Dan Telfair at


Jim MacDougald writes:

In today's (Sunday, October 28, page P12) Wall Street Journal, there is a large sidebar article with a top-of-page headline "FIVE BEST" novels on terrorism.
The subhead reads: "These novels depict terrorism with riveting authority, says thriller writer Gerald Seymour".
Most Secret made his list, as #2. (Gerald Seymour is the author of Harry's Game and 12 other novels).
The article continues:
Time to address that hoary problem: My terrorist can be your freedom fighter, your bad guy can be my hero.
In Most Secret, Nevil Shute tackles this subject and along the way gives a master class in plotting and characterization.
His World War II tales usually skirt the terrorist area, but in this one he writes of a French-crewed trawler that sails from British waters to the sardine grounds off the Brittany coast. When German gunboats approach, the trawler uses a hideous flamethrower that belches napalm on the German sailors.
The Germans most certainly regard the attackers as "terrorists" and, it is clear, will offer them no Geneva Convention protections if the Germans succeed in capturing them: The trawler crew will simply be shot by firing squad.
The British, by contrast, gladly arm and equip these daring irregulars.
The terrorist/hero paradox has been depicted many times over the past half-century, but Shute got there first and is supreme.

The other books on Mr. Seymour's list:

  1. Black Sunday by Thomas Harris, Putnam, 1975
  2. Most Secret by Nevil Shute, William Morrow, 1945.
  3. The Whore-Mother by Shaun Herron, M. Evans, 1973
  4. The Little Drummer Girl by John le Carre, Knopf, 1983
  5. The Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth, Viking, 1971.
I'll leave it to others to comment on the validity of Mr. Seymour's claim. But, it seems to me that NSN's writings are becoming classified in several different categories, and are becoming known as classics:
On the Beach as a classic anti-war novel.
A Town Like Alice as a classic feminist novel.
Now Most Secret as a classic novel on terrorism?
When will Round the Bend get discovered, and what will they call it?


John Page writes:

I was reading a long article about the problems Airbus is having with their new planes, the A380 and A350. Deep in the article this appeared:
A UK Times editorial today maintains that state-direction of Airbus is the problem.
...The deeper problems faced by Airbus and EADS, its parent company, are cultural.
Though undeniably an effective competitor in certain markets, it is a political contrivance, not a reflection of its own commercial successes.
Under M. Forgeard, prestige too often interfered with purpose and profit in the decision-making process at Airbus.
And the shared Franco-German leadership at EADS is a sop to French and German national pride, not the best way to run an aerospace consortium.

You know what immediately leaped to mind.


J.B. Robert writes:

The last novel of Elleston Trevor's long and productive career was Quiller Balalaika which he finished the day before his death. His wife, Chaille, appended an Afterword to the published edition consisting of memories of her husband as he was writing Balalaika while suffering from terminal cancer. One thing she said rang a bell: "With pace and plot, Elleston wrote of ordinary people facing extraordinary situations."
Sounds familiar, doesn't it?

Editor's Comment: Apart from the Quiller novels, Elleston Trevor (1920-1995) also wrote Flight of The Phoenix which has been filmed twice.
Upon leaving school Elleston Trevor was apprenticed as a racing driver, but when World War II broke out, he joined the Royal Air Force, serving as a flight engineer.
He sounds like a man with several interests close to Shute's


Through his association with them, photographer and Shutist Greer Lisle has recently introduced Nevil Shute into an order of the Discalced Carmelite Nuns (The Barefoot Sisters of Carmel) in Little Rock, Arkansas. Greer loans them books from his collection.
The sisters now also receive the newsletter and I want to welcome them to our small worldwide community. Sister Ann writes:

(Greer) offered us a couple (of Nevil Shute novels) once as a loan when we were talking about books.
Well, we fell in love with them and several of our Sisters read every one that Greer has.
What a wonderful man Nevil must have been—he left us in his books an idea of it—so upright, polite and respectful!


When Nevil Shute first flew to Australia in 1948 he offered to fly a local Cairns doctor on his rounds in Northern Queensland. It was on this trip he met Jimmie Edwards, whose war experiences inspired the character of Joe Harman in A Town Like Alice.
The doctor was Marcus Clarke.
Until now we had no information on Dr. Marcus Clarke but I have just received an email from Marcus' daughter, Bev Clarke who writes:

Marcus Clarke was my father. He travelled to the Gulf country with Nevil Shute in 1948. You're right—he was a doctor in the Cairns area but only practiced there for a very short period—leaving for London in 1949/50 for further study. He grew up in Cairns/Port Douglas where his father was also a doctor.
After graduating from Sydney University, in 1938 he applied for a position as a medical doctor in what was British Borneo. Perhaps not the best career option—he was eventually imprisoned by the Japanese until the end of the war.
He was head of the medical staff at Jesselton hospital until 1947.
My father wrote a book about his time in Borneo (A Doctor's Borneo) using the pen name Derwent Kell on the basis that his real name had been pre-empted by an already well-known author.
During the trip with Nevil around the Gulf country they arrived in one township—just in time for my father to deliver a baby. The baby was christened Nevil Marcus—my father wondered why Nevil had been accorded the primary honour given he had done all the work.
A doctor in one of Nevil Shute's books was apparently based on my father—but I am not sure which one.
I can recall visiting Langwarrin as a child—from Tasmania where we then lived—perhaps 1962. Frances Norway came to stay with us in the late 1960's when we lived in Goulburn NSW—this would have been after Nevil had passed away.
Jimmy Edwards was also a long-term friend of my fathers and they kept in regular contact, meeting up again in the late 1980's in Caloundra where Jimmy and his wife had retired.

Editor's Comment: Bev has promised to search for photos from that time. She says her father was a keen photographer. The photo album has a photo of Shute and Reg McAuliffe, the insurance agent who travelled with them. Perhaps this photo was taken by Marcus and there is another with Marcus and Shute? We might soon know.
It might be also be possible that Shute based his young country doctor in The Rainbow and The Rose on Bev's father or perhaps Carl Zlinter in The Far Country, who also went to England for further medical study, has elements of Marcus Clarke?
In Rainbow, the young doctor is Dr. Turnbull. He is 28, 5'7" tall with clear skin and red hair.
It will be interesting to see if Dr. Marcus Clarke matches him in any details when we hear again from Bev Clarke.


Mike Blamey writes:

I am staying at the house 'Temple Druid' where I was sent (with my father and mother) during 1943 as a refugee. It was a location arranged via the Society / Grouping of Authors, by Nevil Shute. The refuge was run by another author, Leo Walmsley.
It is perhaps symbolic that staying here at the same time is a party (10) of young children from Chernobyl who sadly are all suffering from some sort of 'radiation/nuclear related' deficiency passed on from their parents.
Sadly, On the Beach is far too prophetic for comfort and Chernobyl, like Three Mile Island, was an accident: heaven help us if these items were ever to be used in anger!
I note the request for ideas to increase the readership of Shute Books.
I encouraged my students at Exeter to read Shute's work:
Suppose we contacted staff teaching similar subjects/topics in every 'Engineering' school in the world and/or the student Engineering Society—if they still have such—in each University? We would have a substantial 'base' from which to develop a professional readership.
I would be happy to do such in the UK and Europe, and presumably we have links to other Engineering Schools elsewhere.
PS: Interesting to learn that each present member of the Politburo in China was first trained as an Engineer. Shute would surely have been proud!


John Anderson writes:

Outside of the National Library of Australia, where else can you see original writings by NSN—not microfilm, not reproductions or copies but the original items just as he wrote them?
The answer seems to be at BAE Heritage at Farnborough in the UK, which is where Mike Meehan, Andy Burgess and I spent Monday and Tuesday of this week.
This time we were interested in the work NSN did for de Havilland as a student (1920-22) and as an employee from 1923-24.
There, in the dusty boxes of files on various aircraft, are folders with calculations and flight reports handwritten in his neat, precise pencil writing on the squared foolscap sheets he used. There are numerous folders, which include design calculations for propellers, for wings and or fuselages together with neat plotted graphs and drawings.
Of particular interest were his reports of test flights when he flew as an observer, all dated and with results meticulously tabled and graphed.
There was one particular folder entirely of his work on the stressing of the DH51 fuselage, which looked as though it had never been opened since he finished it and filed it over 80 years ago!
NSN was around at the time when he could design something for an aircraft, get it made, see it fitted and then take part in the test flight to see how it worked.
You begin to realise how exciting this was for a young man of 24-25 and how he must have felt impelled to write books about it.


Somewhere Between 1926 and 1933 Shute wrote several short stories while in York using the address 7 Clifton, York. The stories were "Tudor Windows", "Down the Humber in a Motor Cruiser" and "Knightly Vigil".
In 2003 I tried to find and photograph whatever was at the address 7 Clifton, York. I could find only The Grange Hotel; see it on the bottom of the photoline page.
The Grange Hotel is called number 1 Clifton. The place next door is called number 11. So we have a small mystery.
I recently asked The Grange Hotel, which has an excellent brasserie / restaurant, about the history of their building. This is their reply:

This classic regency townhouse, formerly known as Bootham Grange, was built and occupied in 1829 by two members of a wealthy ecclesiastical family, the Richardsons. Two of the brothers were incumbents at local churches and one, in fact, was a well-known evangelical Minister at St. Michael le Belfry, which stands in the shadow of York Minster.
The joint occupancy of the property continued until 1924 when it was first converted into flats for family members of the owner at the time.

Editor continues: It seems possible that Shute lived here at some time in one of the flats even if they were for family members, and that the numbering has changed since. We have no record of where Nevil and Frances lived in York once they were married and I wonder if it might have been at this address.
If you go to York to see Shute sites, I suggest you eat at The Grange Hotel in their basement brasserie. (No, they didn't pay me for the free ad)


J.B. Robert writes:

You say that OTB "is not a very political book". Perhaps not but the movie raised a few hackles.......
The New York Daily News (December 18, 1959) condemned the film: "This is a would-be shocker which plays right up the alley of a) the Kremlin and b) the Western defeatists and/or traitors who yelp for the scrapping of the H-bomb. ... See this picture if you must (it seems bound to be much talked about), but keep in mind that the thinking it represents points the way toward eventual Communist enslavement of the entire human race."
At the time this was written, The Daily News may well have had the largest daily circulation of any newspaper in America.


John Page writes:

You may recall I wrote a few months ago about giving my son, who is a commuter jet pilot out of Phoenix, a copy of Round The Bend to see if I could get him started on NS's novels. He kept on putting off reading the book, but he came up here for a visit today, and he started RTB on the trip up here. He's hooked. He said he started reading the minute he buckled his seat belt and suddenly the flight attendant was announcing preparation for arrival in Seattle. So there is another Shutist in the world effective today.


Jack L Calaway writes:

If NSN had written Trustee in 2006, would this be Keith's engine?


David Weir writes:

Northenden is a suburb of Manchester. I used to live in Rusholme, pretty much next door. See their web site here.

Editor's Comment: We still are no closer to the origins of the literary expression: The Northenden Convention.


Two readers have written in questioning Steve Van Dulken's suggestion that a 1946 Newfoundland airliner crash had influenced No Highway.

Simon Allen wrote:

This appears to be a simple crash and not one that might inspire the complex interweaving of human nature that was to form No Highway.

Simon included links to the Aviation Safety Network database.

John Forester wrote:

Consider the plot thread that, presumably, was in Shute's mind when he started putting it all together.
Whatever writing method Shute actually used (I have no information on that point, and Slide Rule doesn't cover this subject), his finished plots were very tidy.
I like to think that Shute, like a typical engineer, had all the relevant points organized before he put pen to paper.
No Highway is plotted around a technical subject that Shute knew still had many unknowns, metal fatigue. It was quite possible for a plane to be designed, tested, and put into service before discovering a tendency to fatigue failure of some part.
Consider the failure of C-5A wings in a design of thirty years later. Sure, none went down, so far as I know, but the fleet had to have substantial rebuilding to remain in service.
Consider the fatigue failure at the window corners that destroyed the Comets.
Consider the long-time operational history of the DC-3 of twenty years before Shute's story. The goonybird survived because its designers, not knowing so much about metal aircraft, had built her conservatively, building in weight for safety at the price of limiting payload.
So Shute had a potential storyline based in reality, which was always his desire.
Now, what was Shute to do with this storyline?
In another airline story written by an airline pilot at much the same time (When trans-Atlantic service still required a fuel stop at the Azores. I forget the title. Maybe The Four Winds? The book was edited and published by a friend of mine, Frances Phillips of William Morrow and Co.).
There is the remark by a pilot about the fads that worried flight engineers: At one time it was failing master connecting rods, at another time it was main wing spars cracked by fatigue.
For his story, Shute needed a new major airliner recently placed in service, with some part whose fatigue failure would cause a crash to occur in a location where crash analysis would be possible but delayed.
A new major airliner would be built with the trans-Atlantic service in mind.
The Reindeer was large; it had six engines, like the Convair B-36 intercontinental bomber, or the Bristol Brabazon intercontinental airliner that was commercially obsoleted by the Boeing 707 jet.
But it must not crash at sea, for the wreckage must be discoverable and analyzable, though with difficulty.
Along the great circle shortest London to New York trans-Atlantic route ("over the pole" as the later advertisements claimed) that such a plane would follow, the location that best met Shute's needs was the wilds of Newfoundland.
Therefore, I suggest that Shute chose Newfoundland as the location for the Reindeer's crash as the result of engineering analysis of the needs of his plot, rather than news reports of a crash probably caused by pilot error just after takeoff.

Editor's Comment: All three correspondents have produced great research and technically I agree with Simon and John. But I still support Steve's original assertion that the 1946 crash may well have influenced Shute, not because of the nature of the crash but more because of its location and specifically because it happened in 1946.
No Highway came out in 1948 and I suspect that the crash happened just as Shute was seriously considering what would be his next book.
Given Shute's long interest in transatlantic travel and civil aviation, the simplest report of a crash in remote Newfoundland could well have struck a chord.
Shute had already perfected the art of quick writing so the time scale works.
In fact he was capable of a very fast creative gestation as Shute's boss at DMWD said that Pied Piper was the result of a dream in a train that was then dictated to a secretary in just three days.


The Registration Form for the Fifth Biennial Nevil Shute Norway Conference in Alice Springs Australia will be available here beginning November 5th.
Remember, no money or deposit is required for your hotel accommodations at the Conference site.
When completing your Registration form, please be clear on which dates you'll need accommodations, how many nights and which type of room you want (Standard or Deluxe).
If you have any questions, please contact Laura Schneider.


Sydney is enjoying great spring into summer weather at the moment.
I hope those of you planning to attend the Alice Springs conference are making your plans.
It's not at all too late to decide to go.
Apart from the truly beautiful, rugged, Alice Springs environment you can get to see the swimming pool that both Nevil Shute and Jean Paget sat beside and thought about A Town Like Alice. The pool is now filled in but that makes it even better as far as I am concerned. Having spent years madly in love with Jean Paget I am glad no one else can swim in her pool.
When people ask me what to see on a short trip to Australia I always say Sydney, Cairns and Alice Springs will show you everything you can't see anywhere else.
No disrespect to Melbourne (or the other cities) but there are plenty of sophisticated cities all over the world but Sydney, Alice Springs and Cairns give you broad sample of Australia's best environments. Sydney is a sophisticated medium to sub-tropical urban city with harbour and surf beaches, Alice Springs is a lovely town in the best of The Outback and Cairns is a tropical city with The Great Barrier Reef and rainforests an hours travel away. These 3 destinations make a perfect Australian visit if you are on a limited budget or have limited time.


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
Neil Wynes Morse lives in Canberra


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
Bill McCandless lives in Joliet near Chicago.
Joy Hogg, Harrietta Michigan (northern lower Michigan, near Traverse City and Cadillac)
David B. Horvath, dhorvath in the domain, near Philadelphia Pennsylvania, USA.
Al Benkelman Warrenton, Virginia