Nevil Shute Norway Foundation

September 2007 Newsletter


The Missouri Southern State University, in Joplin, Missouri, is hosting a Nevil Shute Film Festival from September 20th through the 22nd 2007.
The film festival is the brainchild of Nathan Kubicek ( a recent MSSU Graduate and a recent convert to Shutism.
Mr. Kubicek was introduced to the writings of Nevil Shute by Dr. Thomas Simpson (simpson-t@mssu.sdu )Tel: (417) 625-3112, a Political Science Professor at MSSU. Dr. Simpson is aiding and abetting Mr. Kubicek with the film festival.
Our illustrious US Librarian, Susan Batross, and El Supremo Emeritus, Dan Telfair, will be attending. Other Shutists in and around Joplin, or free to travel, are encouraged to attend.
For additional information, please contact Mr. Kubicek or Dr. Simpson at the above addresses or (Dan Telfair).
The tentative schedule of events is copied below.
A festival flyer is available, and be sent to all who are interested. Please write to:
The Film Festival over the 3 evenings will include:

  • Addresses by Dr Simpson and Dan Telfair.
  • Landfall (1949)
  • No Highway (1951)
  • A Town Like Alice (1956)
  • On the Beach (1959)

The will be discussions on site and also sojourns to Pizza by Stout for drinks and more discussions of the films. (optional, but recommended)

Editor's Comment: This is a rare chance to see Landfall, a film that to me embodies the spirit of Shute's wartime novels to a high degree. Even though the film has a musical addition; the wonderful, intentionally awful, song "Mona, Mona, Mona" that is not in the book, I doubt Shute would have been offended by the embellishment as it is consistent with the tone of the book.
My only complaint with the execution of the film is with the props department as the glass rabbit flashlight in the film is not the gaudy and foolish monster that Shute described in the book. Sadly I can't go back to 1949 and have a serious chat with the props people and explain the glowing eyed, glass rabbit's psychological importance to the plot. The rabbit flashlight was responsibly bought as a last resort at a time of wartime shortages but it later makes the hero seem unfairly shallow, flippant and irresponsible to his over stressed superiors. It's a foolish person who thinks that any detail in a Shute novel isn't there for a very good reason.
Michael Denison and Patricia Plunket do very well as and Gerry/Rick and Mona but don't miss the energetic and entertaining performance of a young David Tomlinson as Gerry/Rick's roommate, the composer of "Mona, Mona, Mona".
If this college-based Shute Film Festival is a success, there seems no reason not to suggest it wouldn't be popular with students in colleges and universities everywhere.
Pizza by Stout sounds a great place to discuss Shute.


Art Cornell writes:
The Cornells are back home after a three-week vacation in Wisconsin at a lighthouse on Rock Island in Lake Michigan. We were selected to be docents (tour guides) for one week.
All three of our daughters and their families participated. We gave tours to 508 visitors at the beautifully restored lighthouse that was built in 1858.
We slept and ate there without electricity, plumbing or running water. I found that my father had stayed at that lighthouse more than 100 years ago. It was a wonderful experience we will all remember the rest of our lives. I, of course, took along two Shute books.
While away, we have had two responses to our Cape Cod website. One person from New Hampshire will be coming to our next meeting on August 29. Two other people who live north of Boston want to join our chapter. They will not attend this meeting but hope to join us at the next one. Since it is a long drive to Cape Cod, I suggested that they start their own chapter. They were very receptive to that idea.
I have been searching to find exactly why a road and a farm (near the ocean where we visited on our bus excursion in 2005) were named Wonderstrand Way and Wonderstrand Farm. I have found nothing. Apparently, they got the idea from the Viking Sagas as our author, Nevil Shute, did.

Editor's Comment: Although I edit this newsletter ruthlessly at times trying to exclude items without a direct Shute connection, I kept in Art's nice lighthouse story using the excuse that Shute once met a man whose job was selling lighthouses. As I recall, Shute planned to use that profession in his last uncompleted book Incident at Eucla.


Last newsletter I suggested a competition for improvements to my headline to the story on the Airspeed Ashtrays. I felt my headline,

failed to exploit its potential for generating a bad pun.
David Penniman wrote straight back with this winning entry:


With his Shute novel title reference brilliantly entwined with the social decline of smoking and the fact that he flattered me by retaining a bit of my headline to indicate lighting up, David wins no money but he does get the satisfaction of making about 500 people worldwide groan.
I repeatedly hear that puns are low humour but I think they show mental flexibility and a connectivity of ideas. Anyway, I also really enjoy the resultant groaning.
Except that it made the judging a little easier, the fact that David was the only entrant to my otherwise immensely popular and successful competition detracts in no way from his achievement.


Paul Spoff writes:
Thank you Laura Schneider, thank you for letting us share an all too brief look at your exciting trip to the Shute exhibition at the National Library in Canberra.
For oh so many of us it is a trip we'll probably never take.
You helped us see a brief little glimpse and I hope you can share more of that wonderful trip as time goes on.

Editor’s Comment: Any stories of Shute-related travel are always particularly welcome.


Brian Kendal writes:
A few weeks ago I visited Tangmere Military Aviation Museum for a meeting of the History of Air Navigation Group of the Royal Institute of Navigation.
There we saw a German Gyro stabilised aircraft sextant from WW2
Shutists will remember that in ‘What Happened to the Corbetts’ / ‘Ordeal’ (written in 1938) the enemy bombers bombed by getting a very accurate position using a gyro stabilised sextant and then approaching and bombing by dead reckoning. I thought that that sextant was just part of Nevil Shute's imagination.
Had he heard something or did the Germans pick up the idea from the book?
The Tangmere sextant does not resemble Shute's description, but the principle is the same.
Best regards to all disciples of the Master
Brian Kendal

Editor's Comment: With more and more information surfacing of the things that Shute revealed in his wartime novels being very, very close to the truth, it is not surprising that the authorities finally clamped down on Shute when it came to refusing permission to publish Most Secret. I suspect they were fed up with how close Shute was sailing to the wind in his earlier novels and just wanted to teach him a lesson.
I have no doubt that Shute was careful never to expose anything that was not already well known by all sides in the conflict but it is easy to see how a more paranoid member of British Intelligence could get a bit hot under the collar over the realism of his novels.
A bit of googling and wikipedia-ing reveals that most of the weapons that Shute mentions had already been experimented with by both sides before WW2 so it seems unlikely to me that Shute would have revealed anything to the Germans that they didn’t already know.
An example of this is that at the same time that Shute was working on his radio controlled Gliding Bombs and Gliding Torpedoes, the Germans were, 50 years before the 1st Gulf War, already trying to make a workable gliding Smart Bomb with a TV camera (!!!) in its nose. Later in the war the Americans also tried to make this work.
Writing this item rang a little bell and I checked back to discover that on December 04 1939 Shute applied for Patent No. 551880 which is called Improvements in or relating to Observing or Sighting Devices. It is a design that relates to bomb sights. This would indicate that he was rather a busy chap as he was also researching various aspects of bombing for the patent around the same time that he was designing gliding torpedoes and bombs while also writing What happened To The Corbetts / Ordeal.
I can just see that paranoid British Intelligence officer starting to tremble again.


Cedric ( writes:
I thought the article on the 50th Anniversary of On the Beach was especially interesting. It answered one of my questions about how such an anti-war novel and film could be shown to schoolchildren in our town. The fact that Billy Graham endorsed it was the cover they needed. Billy Graham was a reliable anti-communist and father-confessor to several U.S. presidents. Many a church basement was filled with young people who watched Billy Graham films in their formative years.
Some time ago there was a discussion of the most popular Shute novels.
Just judging by what I've found in used bookstores over about 40 years, "On the Beach" is way ahead. Second, I'd say, was "Pastoral"; and third would be "Checkerboard".
I suppose you've seen the news reports of the Bridge collapse in Minneapolis. It is very interesting from my point of view as for 3 years I worked in the building at the West Bank near where the yellow school bus was shown.
We had so much traffic noise that the building broadcast "white noise" to mask it out. However, at 4:30 PM they shut the white noise off and you could just feel your physical systems "slump". The bridge noise still created stress while it operated whether you knew it or not.
As you might guess I immediately associated the bridge with "No Highway" and Mr. Honey. In the Minneapolis case, the engineers had been writing as forcefully as possible about the dangers of the bridge yet the ultimate authority, the governor and his staff, refused to raise taxes to fix the bridge although the fact is that other bridges ranked higher on the danger list.
I thought it was interesting that the top bureaucrat stated on radio that if any engineer felt the bridge was in "imminent danger" he was encouraged to us his car to block the lanes and keep the public off of it.
But there was no Mr Honey. (13 dead and great disruptions for 2 or more years.)
My personal feeling is that the recent management philosophy handed down from the Harvard School of Business (from which the current occupant of the White House received his advanced education), the "Team Approach", is to blame.
The idea is to have a (often) non-technical person "lead" the program and coach the team. Those who are not willing to go with the program are considered "non-team-players" and that's an awful accusation. It carries weight in private corporations. I'm not sure how, in a civil-service job such as the state bridge safety engineering group, this takes form. I expect it may not threaten job security, but it certainly affects promote-ability, and desirability of work assignments. (I think the top officials should have their homes located directly under the bridge.)
On the other hand, professionalism implies that one guy with conviction can stop the whole program. That may once have been laudable but no more.
Whistleblowing is the ultimate bad behavior.

Editor's Comment; I want to thank Cedric for bringing up this connection to No Highway and the themes that are the core of the book: science, management, personality and personal conviction in a life or death business.
In No Highway, Mr Honey is clearly not a Team Player. Shute himself notes that if Mr Honey had been a big rugged jolly fellow who played football and stood for rounds of drinks at the bar, the aircrew at Gander might have taken him seriously but, because he was small, introverted, weedy, diffident, boffin-ish, and at times difficult man, he had less credibility within the prevailing, rather macho, culture.
Regarding Cedric's reference to The Harvard School of Business's Management theories, Mr Honey's boss, Dr Scott, is a scientist but is still an outsider to Mr Honey's area of expertise and so, as a manager, skates between outsider and insider positions while trying to rationalise the usefulness of team players and non team players within a large financially sensitive organization.
Of additional interest here is recalling that in Slide Rule, Shute talks forcefully of the need for people in organizations with an independent income who can stand on their principles and threaten a noisy resignation if they disagree strongly with a policy. This is a lot to ask of any middle-aged man with a dependent family and no private income who risks becoming unemployable anywhere else because he is not considered a Team player.
Having been heavily interested in Shute for about 25 years, I still find, to my repeated surprise, that I just can't tire of him. He even could make the theories of The Harvard School of Management into riveting entertainment.


John Anderson writes:
The Nevil Shute Discussion Board is out of action.
The company that hosted it migrated it to a new web server as part of their "upgrading" of the service and now the script files that permit interactive operation no longer work on the new server.
If you try to access the Discussion Board you'll get a screen full of computer gobbledygook!
I have now set up a Nevil Shute Discussion Group under the umbrella of Google Groups.
You will need to obtain a Google Account to access the Group.
Follow the instructions on screen to get an account.
I've set up some discussion topics and can add pages as required.
Also there are some PDF files that you can downloadand view.
So feel free to sign up and log in.
The only thing I cannot do is to retrieve past postings from the old Discussion Board and transfer them.


Laura Schneider recently received an unsigned email out of the blue and passed it on to me.
Our mystery correspondent writes:
I have long been a fan of Nevil Shute, both as an engineer and an author.
I am a pilot and dabble in building aeroplanes.
I lived in Brisbane for a while where I got to know Fred Lindsley, a contemporary of Nevil Shute Norway, (well a little younger I should say) an aeronautical and model engineer, who apparently worked with Airspeed.
Despite the 50 year age gap we got along very well and I learned a lot from him.
He never really explained his relationship with Shute and I only pieced it together slowly.
I only found out after his death last year, that he was supposedly the inspiration for the character Keith Stewart in "Trustee from the Toolroom."
I was wondering if anybody knows about this ?
Fred was a great inspiration to me as an aeroplane designer/builder and I used to vist him every week over about a year and a half and kept up a correspondence with him for a long time after I returned to Britain.
The extent of his involvement with Shute/Norway only became apparent to me only recently. It gives me goosebumps to remember visiting him now and to think I was privileged to sit with him and talk aeroplanes for hours. I will miss him greatly.
I was forewarned by others that Fred was a somewhat cantankerous old man (he was about 76 at the time), gruff and not easy to get along with.
All I can say was that he was nothing of the kind; he simply did not suffer fools gladly.
He gave me all the advice I could ask for and his basement was a goldmine of information.
I only regret having lost touch with him during the last few years of his life.

Editor's Comment: 55 new additions to the online Nevil Shute Photo Album are now in the final preparation stage for mounting on the website. It's a huge job and will still take some time but I will let you know when it is all up.
Forester 'Fred' Lindsley will soon feature with 2 photos: one when he was a 19-year-old apprentice at Airspeed in 1934 and again as 34-year-old Ground Engineer in Calcutta in 1948.
I don't yet know enough about Fred to join in speculating that he had been a template for Keith Stewart but it is hard not to suspect he was an inspiration for both Tom Cutter and Connie Shaklin's characters in Round the Bend.
At 16, Fred joined Airspeed in York and moved with it to Portsmouth.
Fred worked on Cobham's National Aviation Day Air Circus planes and was a ground engineer on the first Ferry flights and was also involved in the aerial refuelling project. He met Amy Johnson several times and also said that he knew Flt Lt Colman, Airspeed's test pilot, well. He also spoke admiringly of Shute and Tiltman.
Fred was working as a ground engineer and teaching Ground Engineering in Karachi in 1948 and 1949 when Shute had his Proctor serviced there on his way through to and from Australia. Fred reported that Shute visited him in his chummery (a shared accommodation setup) and enthusiastically approved of it. Shute later has Tom Cutter live in a similar chummery in Round The Bend and endorses the arrangement in the book.
With his life-long commitment to precision, Fred embodied real life elements of both Tom Cutter and Connie Shak Lin and, given that many Shute characters appear to be composites of several real life people, may have later influenced their characters in Round the Bend.


Sydney is experiencing the early hints of Spring. This would be normal if we hadn't already had a burst of full Summer weather 3 weeks ago when it should have been the coldest part of Winter.
I have recently started reading Graham Greene who I am quite enjoying. He can be unremittingly grim and depressing at times but usually pays off later with some charming humour. If only he had also been an engineer and had a stammer he might have got over that dreaded literary disease that seems to infect many would-be serious authors: the need to explain how dreadful the world can be to people who are already very well aware of the facts.
I hope this finds you 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
Neil Wynes Morse lives in Canberra
James Fricker lives in Melbourne.


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. Horvathnear Philadelphia Pennsylvania, USA.
Al Benkelman Warrenton, Virginia
Jim Magruder, near Salem, Oregon
Jack Harper Evergreen, Colorado
Fred Depkin Palm City, Florida
Jim MacDougald St. Petersburg, Florida,
Jim Cavanaugh Coupeville, Washington on Whidbey Island, and Seattle, Washington.