Nevil Shute Norway Foundation

Newsletter dated April 2009


From Gail Field

My first book was Town Like Alice which I saw in the Penn Cottage Bookshop in Bucks, UK (fantastic secondhand bookstore) as I knew the film and mini-series. From there there was no stopping me. His writing was so descriptive and captivating and it was effortless to read, like a hot knife through butter.

Not sure I can name a favourite but I prefer his middle to later works - Town Like Alice, Old Captivity, Trustee, Rainbow and the Rose, as the earlier ones, although I like them, strike me more as "action" books.

Just as an extra couple of questions I thought of as I can answer them for me so others may too.

Are there any books you haven't read yet ? I have never finished Whatever Happened to the Corbetts and I will rectify that soon. Also the Seafarers which I don't have. Are there any that you have got rid of ? I actually could never get more than a third of the way through Round the Bend - I found it very hard to read and tried several times. Also Beyond the Black Stump didn't do much for me so after reading it I took that to the charity shop too.

Kind regards

Gail Field

From Eunice Shanahan


There are few of Nevil's books which I don't enjoy, "On the Beach" for one, but for me he is a consummate story teller. My favourites are :-

  • Trustee from the Toolroom
  • An Old Captivity
  • The Far Country
  • The Chequer Board
  • Ruined City
  • The Rainbow and the Rose
  • A Town like Alice

I would recommend any of those, but it would depend whether the person I was recommending the books to was male or female, and whether they were interested in the occult.

We have our own collection of the ones which we re-read, but it does not include Requiem for a Wren (too sad), "On the Beach" or So disdained, which I found rather 'dated' and improbable. It does not seem to matter how many times you re-read them, they are still enjoyable.

We put a display in our local public library for the Shute Centenary, and the librarians took all the Shute books out of storage for that fortnight, and told us that they were amazed at the number of them that were borrowed.... which should tell them something ! They are no longer on the shelves, so presumably have gone back into storage.

Best wishes from sunny Queensland

Eunice Shanahan


From John Anderson


I was over at York the other week and visited the Yorkshire Air Museum where they are putting together a brand new exhibition with the title PIONEERS IN AVIATION. It will celebrate the life and work of those who made a significant contribution to aviation in Yorkshire, including Sir Barnes Wallis, Nevil Shute and Airspeed, Amy Johnson, Robert Blackburn and Sir George Cayley. With a sizable grant from the Lottery Heritage fund, it will be an impressive exhibition with displays, video screens and a large model of the R.100 airship. There will even be a small movie theatre showing contemporary film footage, and artifacts from the R.100 and Barnes Wallis' work on the bouncing bomb.

The exhibition will be open in late May/early June and we are promised a warm welcome there on our Conference excursion day.

On our walking tour on the Thursday morning, groups will be escorted by local voluntary Guides. In addition to taking in locations related to Nevil Shute's time in York, these experts will be pointing out and describing many of the historic places on the route, finishing up outside the magnificent Minster.

So do register for what is shaping up to be an interesting and memorable event!

From Laura Schneider

VOLUNTEERS WANTED to "Read Nevil Shute" in York

The response for readers has been terrific. Thanks to all of the volunteers who will be reading at York. We have three continents represented so far and there is room for a few more readers.

To refresh your memory, there will be ten people reading their favorite passage or excerpt from the writing of Nevil Shute. Each reader will have eight minutes to read their passage and explain their choice. If you would like to be a reader, please contact me at I look forward to hearing from you !

Thanks. Laura

From John Douglas

This is an excerpt from an interview with Frederik Pohl (famous, if that word can be accurately applied in this instance, Science Fictionwriter and editor) who said:

"Shortly before that, I'd had occasion to meet Nevil Shute, who was also a round, pink-faced Englishman. He was similarly open, and a little baffled by America. Shute has always been one of my favorite writers--not just ON THE BEACH but a lot of the things. I think he's forgotten and I regret that. My agent was also agent for the Shute estate, and for years he tried to get some film company to make TRUSTEE FROM THE TOOLROOM. It would be a great film, low-budget, very nice--and nobody would touch it. However, there are a lot of good stories that haven't been made into film, and an awful lot of bad ones that have. I guess it sort of balances out."

I got the print edition of the magazine, from which I've transcribed this. It was the January 2009 edition. You might be able to find the interview on the website ( although I haven't looked for it myself.

The immediately preceding part of the interview discusses his meeting with Olaf Stapledon so that's the other Englishman he's referring to. Pohl also mentions that he's working on an extension of his autobiography in which he intends to include stories about writers he's known so there could some day be more about Shute.

John Douglas

Editor: And there is news about Shute from another writer.

From Richard Bach

I generally don't send a whole lot of comments on the newsletter. In this I'm probably like most of your readers, but speaking for us all I'd say that I read every issue through, greatly enjoying a warm sense of family with others who love these remarkable books. John Douglas' message, for instance, brought a smile to know there's another in the world who shares my fierce personal regard for Nevil Shute. That there are more of us connected by the website is deep nourishment for the spirit in these odd times.

I've just finished a new book, to be published by Hampton Roads Publishing Company in the USA this Fall, that gave me a chance to say a little thanks to NSN.

The working title of the book is "Hypnotizing Maria". It will probably keep that title and add a sub-title I don't know what.

Here's the section, in a chapter short enough to include in full for your interest.

Chapter Nine
"Where do you keep your books on aviation ?"
The used-book store near the airport in Ponca City was promising because it had musted up in the same spot, it looked, for eighty years or so.
"What we'd have on Aviation," said the clerk, "would be, go down that way to where it says Travel and turn left. It's at the end of the aisle, right side."
"Thank you."
What they had was not a whole lot, David Saunders found; nothing on his current flame, seaplane history. Three fine books, though, right together: the rare old Brimm and Bogess two-volume Aircraft and Engine Maintenance, way underpriced, marked three dollars each for two forty-dollar volumes, and Nevil Shute's Slide Rule, about the author's life as an aircraft engineer.
The shelf was at eye level, and when he pulled the three books together, they left a considerable hole. Normally he would have moved on, but as he was in no hurry he noticed another book in the shadows, somehow wedged behind the others. Hoping it might be Seaplanes of the Twenties, he pulled it forward.
No luck. Wasn't even a flying book: Winston's Encyclopedia of Stage Entertainers.
Yet, stricken by the title, he flashed back to Long Beach, California, the Lafayette Hotel, and looked up the only stage entertainer he'd seen in person:
Samuel Black, aka Blacksmyth the Great
American stage hypnotist (1948-1988). Through the mid-1970's, Black is said to have had no equal on the circuit.
"What if we believed we were chained by something that doesn't exist?" he asked a Variety interviewer. "And what if the world around us is the perfect mirror of whatever we believe?"
Black left the stage in 1987, at the height of his popularity.
Journal entries recorded that he was exploring what he termed "different dimensions," and that he had made ".some discoveries greatly interesting to me, and I have decided to leave my body, and return to it, while in excellent health." (Los Angeles Times, 22 June, 1987)
He was found dead of no apparent cause on 12th November of that year.
Black is survived by his wife Gwendolyn (b. 1951), a hypnotherapist.
He set the three flying books on the bookstore counter, feeling guilty at the price on _Aircraft and Engine Maintenance,_then handed the encylopedia to the clerk, whom he suspected might own the place, as well.
"This was in Aviation. It's Stage Entertainers."
"Thank you. Sorry about that, I'll restack it." He set the book aside. "That'll be three dollars each for these two, and four dollars for the Nevil Shute. Does that sound good?" As though he were willing let them go for less.
"Sounds fine. He's a terrific writer."
"The Rainbow and the Rose, Pastoral, Trustee from the Toolroom," said the clerk, with a grin at their shared good taste. "He wrote 26 books, you know. Everybody remembers him for On the Beach, but it wasn't his best book, I don't think."
He was the owner, all right.
"You know your Brimm and Bogess is way underpriced," said the pilot. "I'm taking advantage, you know that."
The man waved his hand, dismissed the thought. "That's the way I priced it. I'll charge more next time."
They chatted for a while about Nevil Shute, this writer all at once alive and with them in the bookshop, whose stories erased the distance between two folks he'd never lived to meet.
Saunders left half an hour later with the Brimm and Bogess, Slide Rule and two other Nevil Shute books, paperbacks that needed re-reading, and decided to stay the night in Ponca City.
Is it cheating, he wondered, to pay a store's asking price for books ??
No, he decided, it isn't.

From John Gallimore

I have been giving some thought to the problem of how to promote NSN's book to a wider public.

As has been stated by other members, the problem is that so many people seem to no longer have the need or desire to read literature. I am perturbed to see when I am invited to the homes of (French) people few, if any books, about; those that are on display are often of the "bought by the metre" ,or "Readers digest" variety.

How can we approach the problem differently ?

Consider the success of the recent film : "Master and Commander", based of the series of novels by Jack O'brian.

This is a reasonably faithful adaptation of one book, with bits of others in the series thrown in to enthrall the film going public.

According to the publishers, there was a revival of interest, to the point that a new hardback edition was produced.

On E-Bay, (my best source of NSN books), I noticed a definite increase in Jack O'brian listings after 2003, and would speculate that literary interest has been thus generated.

Now we have to consider a suitable NSN title to produce as a film, (using of course, our unlimited funds of 'bank of neverpay' money happily bankrolling our Shutewood studios.)

The problem as I see it would be to produce a film that will appeal to a contemporary audience, without massacring the original work.

What are your ideas ?

I would suggest avoiding remakes of existing films. Dare I mention THAT version of On the Beach

If possible avoid unnecessary devices and plot additions. The Far Country did not need Karl Zlinter staying with Jennifer Moreton's grandmother at the beginning of the film.

To be successful, a modern adaptation would work, but a timeless element would be needed.

A possible example would be: Round the Bend.

Tom Cutter could set up in Middle East aviation in a more contemporary environment, remaining true to the 'one man business' theme. Connie Shak-lin needs no fixed time period. The Middle and Far East remain mysterious to occidental readers..........

With our huge budget, who will we seek as director and producer ?

And then the actors themselves.... intriguing ?

What about "An old captivity".... played straight as a period piece ?


John Gallimore

le bourg

19800 Sarran


From Håkan Larsson

Dear fellow Shutists,

Please note the brief article on the Danish archaeologist Eigil Knuth on the Wikipedia. It says that Mr. Knuth was the first Dane to make use of an airplane, a Tiger Moth, in his work on Greenland. This took place in 1938. Mr. Knuth surveyed among other places old Norse settlements and evidences of very early Inuit culture.

Mr. Shute's novel "An Old Captivity"; - captivating also for other reasons - was published in 1940.

These facts may be more than coincidence. It would be most interesting to be able to ascertain that Mr. Shute was aware of the work of Mr. Knuth, making use of it in his authorship - with poetic licence.

However, as a historian I would very much like to find more sources pointing in the same direction before being too certain.

Hoping to arouse your interest in the matter and establish communication, I remain

Yours truly

Håkan Larsson


From John Anderson

Nevil Shute Radio Plays

A little research shows that between 1963 and 1968 the BBC broadcast radio dramatisations of 9 Nevil Shute novels. In those days the BBC did not archive everything that it broadcast and over 90% of dramatisations were discarded. The only way they might have survived is if someone had recorded them off-air. I have been in touch with the Vintage Radio Progamme Collectors Circle (VRPCC), who have been extremely helpful in locating recording of these radio plays. We hope in due course to make these available through the Lending Libraries. In return for their help I agreed to put information about VRPCC, which is as follows:-

"The Vintage Radio Programme Collectors' Circle was set up in 1996, and it caters for the individual collector of, in particular, radio drama and features programmes originating mainly from the BBC, but with some material from other countries such as Ireland, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada. There are currently over 100 subscribers, and contacts have been established with many non-members, both here and overseas, including radio playwrights and producers, both past and present. Several individuals have amassed extensive collections, well catalogued, which contain programmes which were never officially archived, and private recordings date back to the 1940s. A principal objective is, through a process of networking, to minimise the risk of collections (which are often carefully built up over many years) being inadvertently - or, worse still, deliberately - destroyed when an individual's estate is dealt with. Over the years, we have had a fair measure of success in locating "missing, believed wiped" material, much of it on quarter-inch (or reel-to-reel tape and cassette. A stable of quality machines is maintained so that such material can be backed up onto other media.

Unfortunately, until about 20 years ago, when digital media began to become available at reasonable cost, a very high percentage of drama broadcast in the UK was never officially archived. This was due in large part to the twin constraints of space and money, and yet the content of radio programming, together with the method of presentation over the years reflects not only the social manners of the time, but also differing acting and production techniques. The Circle remains committed to the search for BBC material in all categories, even if it does specialise in drama and features programmes. It is quite likely that recordings of programmes (mainly on tape, but occasionally on lacquer or "acetate" disc) which were transmitted many years ago are gathering dust in attics and lumber rooms, and these await discovery."

If you feel you can help, or know of someone with a collection of vintage radio recordings, please contact me and I will put you in touch with VRPCC, but please contact me ONLY if you know of a collection that might be available.

From Gadepalli Subrahmanyam

I have been re-reading (This expression is common for all Shutists) "An Old Captivity".

What felicity of language, apart from weaving a story that keeps your interest alive till the last page !

His own words in describing a neat garden in Oxford:

"The flowers stood regimented in neat array. The lawn was trimmed as primly as a table cloth. Two cane chairs and a cane table stood mathematically arranged... polished ash tray precisely in the middle". Can any other author match him in bringing out the perfection of the garden ?

I think in one of his own books "Ruined City" I presume, the main character was used to fast reading. When in Jail, he started to savour the books, by reading only a few pages and going through them thoroughly before going further. I think we shall all do well to follow his advice and do that for his books.

Gadepalli Subrahmanyam

From Gary and Mary Ann Swinson

Gary and Mary Ann emailed Lisa Hawking, who lives together with her husband and their daughter in Nevil Shute's Landwarrin home. Lisa replied, on the 20th of March:

Hi Gary and Mary Ann,

The whole situation is just horrible, I am terrified to leave here unless someone is home at the moment.

The good news is that my Uncles sheep farm has survived at the moment, he had his sprinkler system set up ready to fight last night but abandoned when the sheds started exploding around him. Once he left he could not go back, but managed to hitch a ride on a fire truck this morning, found house still standing and some sheep had made their way to the front lawn which was green and had the sprinklers on so all was not lost. The rest of the damage assessment is yet to be done, he has lost some sheep, fencing, sheds but survived with his life.

Thanks for your thoughts, unfortunately I don't think this is all over yet.



Editor: So Shute's home in Landwarrin is alright. What surprises me is that apparently these fires are still going on. Lisa's reply is from 10 day's ago.

There was a lot of copy for the Newsletter this month. Thank you very much for that, and please keep those emails coming. Remember we are all together writing the Newsletter, I'm just putting it together. There were a lot of emails this month about the multiple voting system. I myself find this a very interesting topic. However I decided not to publish those emails this month. Please be patient until next month.

In the mean time, if you have an iPod, or iPhone, you can listen to "A Town Like Alice". In iTunes, go to the iTunes Store. Type "australian tales" in the Search iTunes Store and hit "Enter". You'll find a Podcast called Australian Tales. If you subscribe to this (it's free), you can download A Town Like Alice, in seven parts, and 2 other books, each in 3 parts.

Please do check To whet your appetite, click here to view a short movie from previous conferences

I hardly can wait until York in July. Hope to meet many of you there.

Joost Meulenbroek


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


Jim Wells Lindfield, Sydney
Richard Michalak Paddington, Sydney
Ruth Pearson Adelaide
Neil Wynes Morse Canberra
James Fricker Melbourne
Tommy and Polly Thomas Tumbi Umbi, NSW
Jane Lowe Berridale, NSW


Mike Marsh Chepelare


Harvey Fetterly Winnipeg, Manitoba


Joost Meulenbroek Enschede


Julian Stargardt


Gadepalli Subrahmanyam Vizianagaram


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, near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.
Al Benkelman Warrenton, Virginia
Mary L Barnich St Petersburg, Florida
Art Cornell Cape Cod
Bob King Stanwood, WA
Dave Penniman Newtonville, NY
Jim MacDougald St Petersburg, Florida
Alan Gornik Western Springs, IL
Bob Schwalbaum Honolulu
Mike Miller Chariton, IA
Sally M Chetwynd Wakefield, Massachusetts
John Cooper San Antonio, Texas