Nevil Shute Norway Foundation

Newsletter - November 2007


Mike Berliner ( writes:
One of the goals for our third trip to Australia, earlier this year, was to visit an Outback town that would resemble Willstown (to the extent that is possible 57 years after "Alice" was published). About 10 years ago, we'd stayed on a cattle station west of Townsville in Queensland, but correctly predicted that the Gulf Country would be much different.
I would like to thank the many Shutists who offered advice re where to go.
For various reasons, including that advice, but also ease of access and it being the town closest geographically to the location of the fictional Willstown, we went to Normanton.
We had a very pleasant non-stop flight of about 1½ hours on MacAir from Cairns and spent about 24 hours there.
The bottom line ? Was it at all like Willstown ?
Yes, in that it gave us a sense of what it would've been like when Jean arrived and - even more so - why Joe was so wary of Jean being able to live in the Outback after coming from England. Normanton is pretty much deserted; it is not a town on the way up and, in fact, was described to us by locals as a town barely hanging on, like other Gulf Country towns. Super-wide streets and boulevards but almost no traffic. No thriving businesses that we could see. A few rather sad shops, three "hotels" that are below the level of Motel 6.
We had reservations at the National Hotel (better known as the Purple Pub), but they had no record of our reservation and advised us that we'd be "happier" across the street at the Albion - perhaps because they thought we'd be uncomfortable in a hotel/pub (hotels are basically pubs with a few motel-type rooms in the back) whose clientele seemed to be mostly non-working Aborigines. (We saw no young whites; apparently, they all get sent away to school; the local schools in the Gulf Country are almost 100% Aborigine in their student populations.) In fact, the Albion was a bit more upscale, but the room was like a 1950s motel, bare and rather depressing (for us and for the tree frog and cane toad that joined us), but the air-conditioner worked great and we had an excellent pub dinner of barramundi. We talked to as many people as we could, though most lacked the legendary friendliness of Australians. The town librarian (a recent arrival) asked us why in the world we'd come to Normanton (a question posed also by our friends in Sydney and Melbourne) - it's not exactly a tourist mecca, the visitors primarily those doing business (Normanton in the shire seat) or on their way to or from barramundi fishing in Karumba.
The lack of visitors is hardly surprising, as there's little to see there but a lot space. There's a big statue of a big crocodile and two museums, a shire museum that consists of photographic displays and a railroad museum at the station for the Gulflander narrow gauge train, which seems to attract some tourists..
Are we glad we went there? Absolutely. After years of wondering, we now have a feel and some knowledge (one can't learn all that much in 24 hours) of the Gulf Country and what it must have been like. The heat, the sparse surroundings, the wide streets that indicated a past life of greater prosperity. All of which made it evocative (and rather exotic for us visitors from Los Angeles). But were we glad to leave? Absolutely. The fear that our flight back to Cairns could be cancelled filled us with anxiety: just 24 hours in the back of beyond made us yearn to get out.


Phil Nixon writes:
Sad news on well loved UK Shutist, Martyn Dryden.
Martyn passed away on the 21st October, 2007, after succumbing to lung cancer, aged 57.
Martyn was a keen Shute aficionado, who attended Portsmouth 2003, Cape Cod 2005, and local gatherings. Martyn was also an enthusiast of aviation, motorcycling, music, literature, art & design and much more.
Martyn's professional skills came to my aid at the Alice Springs 2007, as I put together Mike Meehan's narrative of "Round The Bend" with footage of Sir Alan Cobham's National Aviation Day (to view this, go to and type in "Nevil Shute").
The funeral took place in Martyn's hometown of Wimborne in Dorset. The Nevil Shute Foundation was represented by Mike Meehan and Phil Nixon. Martyn was a dignified and gentle person, who will be missed by all who knew him, he is survived by his wife Barbara and his daughter Alice.


John Anderson ( writes:
The 6 th Biennial Nevil Shute Conference will be in York, UK, in 2009.
Provisional dates are 26th to 31st July. Various venues in York are being assessed and further details will be available as planning progresses.


Those who attended Alice 2007 will already know that Shutists Joost Meulenbroek, John Anderson and Mike Meehan finally found Runagate, the yacht Shute had built in 1939 and owned till leaving for Australia in 1950.
Runagate is currently safe and sound in Newcastle in The UK and owned by a man who values her and hopes to restore her.
Runagate is a 1939, 18 ton Hillyard Schooner. She is 40 foot long and has 3 cabins with a total of 7 berths. She is made of Larch on Oak. The height of the cabin was 5 feet 9 inches so she is reasonably comfortable.
Eventually, the owner plans to sail Runagate (on motor) to the Hillyard shipyard at Littlehampton on the south coast of England for restoration work.


Philip Davey ( writes:
I'm writing to let you know that I've been extremely honoured in being invited to present a paper at a conference to celebrate the life, music, dancing and acting of Fred Astaire. It's to be at Oriel College, Oxford University, UK, 21-24 June 2008. Currently being organised by Dr Kathleen Riley, the conference will feature an impressive array of Fred Astaire experts ranging from academics, writers, actors and musicians to family members and friends. Special guest of honour will be Ava Astaire McKenzie and husband Richard. They live in Ireland. Dr Riley is a young Classicist (Greek and Latin) who works between Sydney University and Oxford and has recently written a book about the stage career of Nigel Hawthorn of Yes Prime Minister fame. She is currently researching the stage career of Fred and his sister Adele prior to Fred becoming a film star, hence her interest in my book which she picked up last year. Because OTB was such a departure from Fred's mainstream career, and a highly successful one at that, Kathleen thought that it would be great to have me come along and talk about his role in OTB and experiences downunder. I would be extremely grateful if you could advertise the conference on your website/newsletter as it's just possible that some Nevil Shute folk may be interested in attending. At 175 quid (that's English pounds) for the 4 days, it's extremely good value considered the people speaking (excluding myself of course, but I'll do my best!!). A Conference website is currently being established but only the front page works at present. The various links will soon be working however. Visit:

Editor's Comment: I am also an enthusiastic fan of Fred Astaire. Readers will recall that Philip Davey wrote an excellent book on the shooting of the film of On The Beach in Melbourne in 1959. Fred Astaire starred in the film as the car racing scientist Julian Osborne.


Laura Schneider ( writes:
I was in Chicago a few weeks ago and went to the Art Institute because I heard about a new amazing photography exhibit. After studying some of the huge, breathtaking photos of Richard Misrach, I went to read the introduction about him and for the first time, noticed the title of the Exhibit, On the Beach. The following text was written by Richard Misrach about the photographs and his inspiration for the exhibit. Needless to say, I was blown away.
Richard Misrach explains: "The photographs that appear in On The Beach were made between January 2002 and November 2005. I was drawn to the fragility and grace of the human figure in the landscape. My thinking about this work was influenced by the events of 9/11, particularly by the images of individuals and couples falling from the World Trade Center Towers, as well as by the 1950s Cold War novel and film, On the Beach by Nevil Shute. Paradise has become an uneasy dwelling place; the sublime sea frames our vulnerability, the precarious nature of life itself."
In the Exhibit book is a copy of the title page of On the Beach, with the poem by T.S. Elliot. The exhibit book credits the New American Library first paperback edition published in 1957. This brilliant exhibit closes in Chicago in November but will travel to Hawaii, Seattle, Washington and Washington, DC. It's worthy in its own right but the NS connection makes it required viewing.


Jim MacDougald ( writes:
I read Gadepalli Subrahmanyam's submission to the newsletter headed "No Better Tonic" with real interest. He struck a strong chord with me when he said that when his spirits are down, there is no better tonic than ATLA. I have always found NSN's books to be a tonic (perhaps more like a narcotic) to take when my spirits are down.
The books have an immediate and magical way of bringing peace to an uneasy mind. I've heard some other Shutists say similar things. I'm this why we're all "hooked"? Is there something truly magical about Nevil's writing or his stories that creates a sense of peace that we can't find anywhere else? Why is that? NSN is the only author whose books I've read over and over again, and I know that this is true of many readers of the newsletter.
Maybe we should try to figure out what it is that addicts us.
We are unlike any "fan" club I've ever heard of. We read 50-year-old books over and over again, talk about them, discuss them.
This is a crazy phenomenon, and doesn't fit in with 21st Century ways. Most others are watching "Dancing With the Stars" or some other silliness, while we're reading Landfall or RTB for the 4th time. This is really strange.
What, exactly, is it that addicts us so, and why can't we find it in other books?

Editor's Comment: I couldn't agree with Gadepalli and Jim more. They both echo my own feelings and experience.


Summer marches in here with hot days and some nights barely getting cool. Christmas won't be long.
I hope you are all well.
Richard Michalak


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


Gadepalli Subrahmanyam


Bruce A Clarke lives in Bangkok

United Kigdom

Richard Wynn lives in Cinderford , Gloucestershire in The UK.


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 near 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.
Robert J Price lives in Cottonwood, California, near Redding.