Nevil Shute Norway Foundation

Newsletter February 2017

Letters to the Editor

FROM Philip Nixon

The next meeting of the Nevil Shute Book Club UK will be held on Saturday 25th February 2017 to discuss Pastoral. 

It’s all happening in the village of Chalgrove, Oxfordshire, which could have been Shute’s fictitious Hartley Magna.

To get a taste of the story, we are visiting, very briefly, an old Manor with a lake, and an airfield that was active in WWII and then we will be settling down in to the back room of the Red Lion, which could have been a ‘Hartley’ pub.

We will rendezvous at the pub at 11am, visit the Manor and airfield (very little walking involved) to return for lunch. If there is sufficient demand then we can also add a cream tea for later in the afternoon!

FROM Bim Bensdorp

Following our friends in the UK and USA, we are trying to start the Nevil Shute Book Club NL. Our first meeting will be held on 26 March, at 12:30 in the restaurant of the National Militair Museum (, on the former airbase Soesterberg. The restaurant can de reached from within the museum, but can also be entered from outside, without a museum entry ticket.

This first meeting will be used to get to know each other, and learn what we expect form our book club. If everything is going alright, we will also discuss our first book, which will be Pastoral.

The language used will be Dutch, unless there are people from abroad (you are more than welcome), in which case we will speak English. 

Until now 4 people have said that they will come. If you are interested, please contact me via email, or at 06 53 146 581.

We will let you know what happened in the April Newsletter.

FROM John Anderson

In The Wet and Walter Norway.

In this book David Anderson is born 'on the trail' to the cattle drover Jock Anderson and his half caste wife Mary. Recent research has shown that Shute adapted a real life birth in very similar circumstances, having read a newspaper article about it in 1951. The following year Shute and fellow writer Alan Moorehead embarked on travels in northern Australia. After many enquires they finally met with the father of that child, one Walter Norway. Moorehead wrote of the encounter in his book Rum Jungle and Shute's search for Walter, whom he thought might possibly be some distant relative.

The story is too long to recount here, but if anyone would like the full story, please contact me by email.

FROM Scott McConnell

Two friends recently told me that their teen daughters had become interested in writing fiction. Many fiction writing skills can be learned and learning them in your youth can save a writer a lot of time and struggle. So I recommended that the daughters read what I consider to be the best book on the topic, The Art of Fiction by novelist Ayn Rand. And I also sent the teens the following tips (influenced by Rand’s book) to help them learn fiction writing. I must add that these tips can also be helpful to adults and that the thinking skills learned to write fiction are applicable to other creative areas of one’s life.

One. Fantasise. A little loneliness is good for the soul, especially to help develop a sense of creativity. So throw away that screen, be alone, be bored. And switch on your imagination. For example, ask yourself “What if” questions. Say you see a little girl explode with anger. Take that kernel of an experience and develop it into a little story by applying some thinking to it. What if the little girl was exploding with anger when her school principal was correcting her? What would happen? What if the little girl were a space ship captain losing her temper during a great battle against the dreaded Gorgons? What if…

Two. Read a lot of well-told fiction and watch classic movies and TV shows so you will become generally aware of what is a good story. That is, experience stories filled with imagination, suspense, mystery, wit, and high values. The short stories of O'Henry and Roald Dahl might be good starting points, as can be many older comics, such as Superman, The Phantom, and Prince Valiant. Younger writers could also read Classic Comics, which dramatize famous novels, plays and tales of old. Watch movies from the golden age of Hollywood (1939-1969), for example, adventure stories and dramas like Casablanca, Captain Blood, and Shane. There is a cornucopia of TV shows to learn from. Check out Star Trek, Gunsmoke, I Love Lucy, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Dr. Who, The Thorn Birds, and 24, just to name a few mostly older TV classics you might not know. And you must read novelists and playwrights of old who actually were great story tellers. Think Victor Hugo, Frances Hodgson Burnett, Rafael Sabatini.


Three. There is also a specific way you can learn from experiencing high quality literature. While the previous paragraph stresses what to read, these next two points recommend HOW to read. When you are reading a gripping yarn analyse your reactions to it. For example, when reading thrillers like the James Bond classic Casino Royale or the Jack Reacher masterpiece The Visitor and you feel a strong emotion ask yourself: What am I feeling? What in this story is making me feel this? How did the writer get me to react this way? By asking such questions you are studying how to create mystery, suspense, and twists and you are pressing these lessons into your subconscious mind so that your own writing will improve. Asking “How?” is an important question for a fiction writer.

Four. When you read fiction that bores you ask yourself: Why is this uninteresting? How can I make this story better? What would I like to see happen in this story? This last question will encourage you to apply your own values to your story thinking. Also imagining how you would adapt prose stories for the screen can help you develop good writing premises. Such thinking, for example, forces you to determine a story’s key conflicts and to practise structuring them in dramatic ways.


Read 6 more tips on fiction writing at:

FROM Sherill Anderson

Kindling was first published in 1938.  I have a first edition which I bought  secondhand in the 1960's and have read it a number of times.  Just finished reading it again.

It is most timely, particularly here in the U. S., where certain industries are going downhill, notably coal mining, and those folks out of work or fearing for their jobs have voted for a man who "felt their pain" and said he would bring all those jobs back.

I hope all the Shutists will read Kindling, if they have not done so already.

FROM Mike Blamey

“The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it.” 

Neil deGrasse Tyson

 Actually this quotation set me thinking: thinking about the ‘laws’ which govern science -the Laws of Nature. Of course ‘they’ are already there and have been since the Big Bang: or whatever and however you view the start! We humans, Engineers, scientists, technologists are simply codifying them, as we start to understand and use them, into some format: a format which is often defined in mathematical symbols and which we can use to pass on our knowledge to those who will follow.

Thus does the ascent of mankind happen? As more perceptive and analytical readers of Shute than I regularly tell me, he and his stories do have a common theme. Ordinary people doing extraordinary things. And perhaps it is as technologists that we have the best opportunity of all the professions to be extraordinary. Being involved in any attempt to go faster, higher, whatever medium, air, land, sea and to try to design for such...means that we are most exposed to areas of knowledge where the unknowns are right in front of us: and we and those who Joy Ramsey describes, the most likely to be shown up. I take the liberty of offering part of the very first lecture given by the Dean of Engineering at St Andrews when a very young and callow undergraduate started his studies there.

Education is what survives when all that has been learned has been forgotten.  B F Skinner

The first year Engineering undergraduates at St. Andrews were required to attend a lecture by the Dean on the first day of their first term. Professor Dick (an unfortunate name for 18 year old students to ponder) started with a short history of the subject and our new profession, gave warnings about the need to work hard, and then invited the entire class to accompany him down to the River Tay, which conveniently ran close to the University. There, in the water was the final part of his lecture: the rusting remains of the original Tay railway bridge.

"Gentlemen," he said, even though there was one girl in our class, "Gentlemen, never throughout your careers, nor your practice of the great profession that you are soon to commence, forget that any attempt to defy any of the Laws of Nature will result in both immediate detection and punishment. And if not for you personally, certainly for those who will have had the misfortune to use your skills. Which will have been shown to be wanting."

Splendid words, worthy of the Institution that he served, and the ideals that should unite all Engineers. Indeed should unite all professionals in whatever sphere of science and technology, whose role in life is solely to direct "the great forces of Nature to the benefit of mankind.”

FROM Gadepalli Subrahmanyam

Now, there are quite a few unanswered  questions, or say unanswerable too. Some of us should try to write sequels to these wonderful books. Of course, they should stick to his style, as well as content. For example, the next generation of the Black family and that of Morgan would very well fill a full page novel.

How I wish that we have more Nevil Shute books to read!

FROM Paul Spoff

In WW2, The Germans Tried to Copy the de Havilland Mosquito – And Failed. The de Havilland Mosquito was one of Britains most iconic aircraft. The high-velocity airplane made entirely from plywood.


FROM Charles D.

In the late 1930′s, the Empire flying boats of Imperial Airways linked the British colonies of East Africa from Egypt to South Africa. They carried passengers in country-club comfort on a five-day journey featuring luxury accommodations and five-star service.






Those of you that are on Twitter, check out: It just has passed the 1000 followers threshold. (Well done Phil).

From the Netherlands, where we just have had two weeks with snow (gone now), see you next month, or maybe on the 25th to discuss Pastoral.