Nevil Shute Norway Foundation

Newsletter dated December 2013

Letters to the Editor

From Chris & Penny Morton

We're putting the final touches on the conference story for the website and there are lots of photos so far. A big thank you to Julie O'Brien and, Alison Jenner, John Anderson and Christine and Jim Wells, for sending their great shots; Laura has promised some too. If anyone has photos that are different, please send them to us.

We wish all Shutists a safe and happy holiday season and all the best in the coming year.

Chris and Penny Morton

From John Anderson

Editor: John Anderson and several others received and email From Patrick J. Sidley, with photo’s of a model of R 100. Unfortunately this newsletter is text only (for now), so I can’t put the photo’s in the newsletter. It may be, that David Dawson-Taylor will put them on the web version.

From Webmaster - yes, I have - look under "Virtual Museum"

Here is John Anderson’s reply to the email:

Many thanks for the photos of the R.100 model at the New England Air Museum. It is quite a good representation of the airship, except the cutaway section !

You may be interested to know that my new book "Airship on a Shoestring - the story of R.100" will be published soon. Drawing on archive material, contemporary records and Nevil Shute's FULL account of the flight to Montreal and back, it tells the full story of this airship. Here is the blurb for the book:

"After the First World War, airships were seen as the only viable means of long range air transport for passengers and freight. In Britain, this gave rise to the Imperial Airship Scheme of 1924 to link the outposts of the Empire by an airship service.

Conceived as part of this scheme, the R.100 airship, built by private enterprise, successfully flew to Canada and back in 1930.

This is the story of R.100, Britain’s most successful passenger airship. It is a tale of schemes and politics, over-optimism and rivalry. It tells the full story of its design and construction under difficult conditions, the setbacks and delays, personal antagonism and financial constraint. Two years late and massively over budget, R.100 flew and flew well, achieving her designer’s ambition and fulfilling the contract specification. Her Canadian flight in 1930 was the culminating success, but her ultimate fate was dictated by the tragedy that befell her Government-built sister ship, R.101, and economic expediency at a time of national economic depression.”

From Keith Minton

NO HIGHWAY, my favourite of Nevil Shute’s novels, was first published in 1948 three years after the end of World War II, and within distance of the jet age, which began in earnest with the Comet in 1952, though its prototype was flying in 1949 a year after the publication of No Highway…

Coincidentally (or was it?) the early accidents with the Comet, the most beautiful plane imaginable, in the 1950s, were ascribed to metal fatigue, the basis for the plot of No Highway. Theodore Honey, a deliberately theological name meaning “gift of the gods”, and it is obvious what “Honey” represents, is a scientist at the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough. He discovers in his mathematical investigations that “the light alloy structure” of which the new Rutland Reindeer (the Comet?) is constructed, is liable to metal fatigue and therefore the tail plane will break after a certain number of hours of flight, in Honey’s view, 1440. Honey is promptly sent to Labrador to examine the wreckage of a Reindeer that has recently crashed, it is discovered by Honey’s new boss Dr Scott after only 1393 hours. The crash was according to the reports caused by “pilot error” but in view of Honey’s findings, Scott decides Honey should go himself to investigate the air crash in Labrador and examine the tail plane.

Horror! Not long after the aircraft takes off Honey discovers the plane he is flying in is a Reindeer, and even worse it has flown already 1422 hours prior to take-off! His terrible dilemma is what he can do in this situation, as he is convinced, unlike everyone else, he is right in his mathematical theory of metal fatigue... The rest is the story which I do not propose to retell here.

Of course the plot was very topical as jet aircraft were already being built in 1948 and metal fatigue was a fear among aircraft designers. Four years later Nevil Shute’s novel had all the ingredients of a best-seller, which it was. The film No Highway was distributed by Twentieth Century Fox only three years later in 1951 and was a star studded vehicle if ever there was one.

But the studio star system reigned. Fox could only give parts to people under their contract, so Honey to start with was completely miscast. There is no way you could describe James Stewart as an ugly little man with acutely short sight and a face like a frog… Dr Scott in the novel becomes Mr Scott in the film, played well and in character by Jack Hawkins, and the Director becomes Sir John, a beautiful performance by Ronald Squire, Sir David Moon (Hugh Wakefield) taking a slightly bigger part in the film than in the book as the Chairman of CATO (Commonwealth Atlantic Transport Organisation, fictional) violently opposed to Honey’s theories… Marlene Dietrich is of course herself, beautiful and majestic, but she is just right for Monica Teasdale (Myra Tuppen is her real name in the novel..) And so is the lovely Glynis Johns as Marjorie Corder, the air stewardess.

Of course a novel and a film are completely different animals, and there is no way a novel can be changed into a film without drastic changes. Skilled directors such as Alfred Hitchcock saw that immediately, and often only used the title of the novel as the basis for his films, the actual novel he mostly disregarded; the supreme examples are Vertigo and Psycho.

No Highway is a novel of about 250 pages, short of course by today’s standards, but the narrative is still very important, Dr Scott being the narrator throughout, although there are quite a few episodes, for example in the Reindeer across the Atlantic, where one is hard put to know how Scott knew exactly what was going on. Perhaps Nevil Shute should have allowed Honey to tell that part of the story himself, after all he was the hero of the tale, albeit an unlikely one.

But the film had to if not ignore the narrative only use the parts of it which would come over to a cinema audience. Therefore much of the book is omitted, or changed for the audience to have an immediate impression of what is going on, and some of the characters such as the irrascible Reindeer designer E.P. Prendergast are not very conspicuous by their absence. Another important change is the fact that in the film Elspeth, Honey’s young daughter, is not left by her father in the care of a negligent charwoman, which is effectively illegal, but looked after by Mr and Mrs Scott. So Janette’s accident in the novel when she falls down the stairs and lies there unconscious overnight does not appear in the film.

Elspeth’s planchette episode and Scott’s hunt in Labrador for the tail plane are also omitted in the film. Let us face it, films are made to tight budgets and on tight time schedules There is also the question of likelihood. Modern audiences or even those of 1951, would be hard put to believe a young girl can direct someone thousands of miles away by means of automatic writing.

Both the book and the film work in their very different ways. But you cannot compare one with the other, they have to be taken separately on their own merits. Both are excellent, but it is the message and the vision behind them that are all important. The plots of book and film are of little importance – if any. Shute wrote to entertain and to put across his ideas; he was not in the least concerned about likelihood, at least that is my view. Hence his preoccupation in some novels with ghosts and mediums and his desire to look into the future as in On The Beach…

Nevil Shute was an entertainer and a visionary in his literary life, not a realist. He had been too much in true life in contact with reality; to be in contact with it in his literary life was impossible. In that way he was another Walter Mitty.

From Kirstin Hagelstein

I've been a devoted Shute fan since 1972 but didn't find out about the foundation til recently.

One thing that might be of interest is the Admiral Chester Nimitz Museum of the Pacific War that is in Fredericksburg, Texas, where I now live. Admiral Nimitz grew up here and his parents owned a hotel that has been preserved as part of the museum complex. We are about 70 miles From San Antonio. This museum is devoted to all the battles of World War II that took place in the Pacific and there are so many place connections to events in Nevil Shute's books and life. It is truly a remarkable museum. They have a large collection of recorded memoirs of World War II vets and continue to record and transcribe as many of their stories as possible. The current head of the museum is the former commandant of the U. S. Marine Corps, General Michael Hagee. They sponsor re-enactments of the Battle of Tarawa 6 times a year that are very well researched and executed. The people of Japan donated a Peace Garden at the museum to honor Admiral Nimitz. They have an annual symposium every September about World War II with internationally known speakers. Their website is:

Fredericksburg itself is an interesting designation - it was founded by a German baron and has preserved many old buildings - most of downtown is over 100 years old. The treaty the baron made between the German settlers and the Comanches has the distinction of being the only treaty never broken in the United States.

If any Shutists come visit, I would love to hear From them!

From Mike Blamey

I was interested in reading about the First Flight of N West Orient (as I knew it when I was traveling regularly!) and the need to land in haste! I recall hearing an early pioneer wireless operator (presumably it was via Morse Code!) on the London to Paris run in the 20s describe his main task! to constantly be on the look-out for 'that field' to which they could land in an emergency! As they flew over one he had identified (presumably the engine was still running!), he had to immediately identify the next one, and so on until they got to their destination.

Readers may enjoy a short piece I wrote after one incident on one flight in the 80s on N West Orient: those were the days when the clients were happy to pay for first class tickets!

The Jumbo was settled high over the Pacific, on course for Hawaii, and thence to San Fransisco. Mike had been on the road for thirty days, a tour of all the textile capitals east of Bahrein, and was tired, both physically and mentally. The stewardess was offering the inevitable glass of champagne; but as he sipped it, the liquid felt warm to his lips. Not what he had come to expect From other airlines.

"I wonder if I might have a cold glass"

Mike put on his best Englishman-in-the-company-of-American's accent.

"Sure Sir" The reply was mechanical, and fitted the plastic smile and the well cultivated made-up face that gave it.

There was a pause as the girl, though she was certainly not one, went to the rear. He could hear her crashing about in the galley.

"Good", thought Mike, "A new bottle".

"Here you are, Sir".

He turned to see where the voice was coming From, and was just in time to see a pair of tongs, in which was fixed an ice cube, being positioned over his glass, like a B 52 about to make a drop in Vietnam. Mike gasped in horror at the prospect of "watering" any wine, a gasp of anguish and surprise that was stifled by the sound of the 'plop' as the missile was let go.

It plummeted into his glass, with the inevitable result.

A volcanic eruption of Versuvian proportion occurred. A spurt of champagne, obeying the laws of physics, which required that to every action there must be an equal and opposite reaction, leapt up From his glass. As the ice cube settled into the bottom, more laws of physics demanded that the effect of the cold ice, would cause an immediate change in the physical properties of the liquid in his glass. The bubbles of gas, which normally excite the senses of the drinker, became very excited themselves.

The skills of the cellar which had produced the finest champagne in the world, which had encapsulated the gas in the liquid, were as nothing by comparison with those laws of thermodynamics and the Universal gas equation. The sudden release of the gases, created a second and concurrent explosion and fountain-like spire of liquid, as they too, obeying yet more laws of physics began a rapid and upward journey to wherever they felt that they would be most comfortable; and that was as far away From Mike's glass as they could get, as quickly as they could get there.

When the entire contents of his glass had made their way out, somewhat like a cinema emptying when someone calls out "fire", Mike took stock of the situation; and wished he had merely drunk the bloody stuff warm.

The score appeared to be as follows; No champagne, no pleasure, a surly stewardess, a suit that would need cleaning and pressing, and several papers ruined.

Well done! Well come! (to North West Orient) "Have a good day". MJB

From Piet de Visser

re female characters, pastoral/review.. We probably over-theoreticize here..

But there are more female-fatal roles in Shute, take example of "Lonely Road" :

Commander Stevenson lets it known he was hurt several times by his love interests.

Edna will not marry Billy, causing some hurt.

Mollie initially refuses advances From Malcolm - until it is too late.

We know how Stevenson ends.

The only truly happy(couple) endings I recall are in early work,

Joan and Philip Stenning, recurring in several books, and the narrator of so disdained.

I used to have some far-fetched theories about the origin of some of the female characters, but have to think about them a bit more before writing them down.

Notice that the two persons I consider Shute's favorite heroes,

Stenning and Pascoe, have a lot in common.

But Pascoe, the older, more mature version, ends up single.

From Heather Mayfield

Am just back in beautiful Medford from seeing the American premiere of FALLOUT in Los Angeles. Both my kids were with me, my son with his wife, daughter with her partner, and one of my grandsons, Jennifer’s older boy, Zane, aged 14, who was my escort for the evening.

It wasn’t a glamorous affair – more substance than glitz. Dress was billed as ‘formal business wear’, so people arrived looking pretty casual, one or two even in Hawaiian shirts! There were a few people whose names I recognised there – George Chakiris, who won Best Actor for his part in “West Side Story” in the 1950’s, I believe, Lou Gossett, Lily Tomlin, of “Laugh-In”; fame, Helen Caldicott, well known doctor and anti-nuclear activist; and Donna Anderson, who played the part of the young Australian wife in ON THE BEACH. I think that’s about it. These people, with the exception of George Chakiris, and the addition of a couple of Ricks, Karen Kramer and I, made up a panel hosted by Kat Kramer for statements and questions after the movie, almost all of which centered on the Fukushima disaster, and left wing politics in general.

Lawrence Johnston, the Australian Director of FALLOUT has done a truly excellent job with this documentary, blending in footage of Hiroshima immediately after the atomic bomb, and shots of Melbourne completely deserted with papers blowing all over the place, after everyone has died. There is an excellent Australian narrator, Gideon Haig, I believe, who binds the whole documentary together. Karen Kramer, (Stanley Kramer’s widow) Donna Anderson, and I are featured ‘talking heads’. Stanley Kramer was the director of the movie of ON THE BEACH. All in all an excellent production, and well worth 90 minutes of your time if you can possible get to see it. Lawrence Johnston is trying to get sufficient financial help to get FALLOUT into general release. At the very least, to distribute it on DVD’s. This project has been plagued by financial difficulties the whole time, and any contributions, or suggestions as to how to get it out to the public will be very welcome. How about film festivals?

Both Kramers are very nice, very Hollywood, people. Kat Kramer, Stanley’s daughter, has an ongoing series of documentaries about things that she is passionate about, like saving the elephants, saving the dolphins, bullying, and, of course, things nuclear. Donna Anderson, is a charming lady, about my own age, or possibly a few years younger. We had quite a bit in common, despite her left wing politics.

There was an awful lot of talk there about Fukushima. I must admit that most of this had passed me by, but they were so passionate about it, and the ‘fallout’ from that nuclear disaster. It has apparently already hit the West Coast, with starfish melting into a glob of jelly. They are quite convinced that the ocean currents will take the radioactivity down to Australia. They are also concerned that this event is not completed, and that there will be some more nuclear events from the plant in Fukushima. Something or other is bent, and there is fear that it will fall, releasing a lot of radioactivity. A lot of handwringing ‘what can we do about this?’ Answer, I would think would be ‘nothing’, but there’s no harm planning. They are absolutely vitriolic, still, in their hatred of George Bush.

I believe that Karen and Kat are taking FALLOUT to Palm Springs this weekend where they are having a grand whoop-ti-do for Stanley Kramer’s centennial. That will be more, good, publicity for this movie. Any chance of it being seen in England and/or the Continent?

May I take this opportunity of wishing every recipient of this addendum to the newsletter a very Merry Christmas, and a Happy and Healthy New Year.



A bit late this month, but I hope it was worth the wait.

From the Netherlands, where it is cold now, and the first snow is expected later this week, I wish you all Happy Holidays.

See you again in the new year