Nevil Shute Norway Foundation

Newsletter dated January 2012

Letters to the Editor

From Philip Nixon

Exciting "Inbetweenie" announced

UK Shutists are organising their biennial Shute Weekend for 2012 to be held on the weekend of May 19 & 20. The main venue for the event will be the White Waltham aerodrome near Maidenhead, Berkshire. Nevil Shute's connections with the aerodrome are manifold. Firstly it began life as a flying school for Shute's ex-employer De Havilland. Then it became the HQ of the Air Transport Auxiliary during WWII in which Shute's acquaintance and Airspeed investor, Amy Johnson served until her death when flying an Airspeed Oxford. However, most will know of White Waltham as the setting for the Royal Flight's UK base in "In The Wet". It is now the busy home of the West London Aero Club.

More information concerning itineraries, speakers and accommodation will be published in this newsletter in the next issue. A visit to Nevil Shute's birth place, and the setting for the Stewart's home in Trustee From The Toolroom, is planned. Presentations, lunch and the essential Cream Tea will be held in "the snug"at the Aerodrome's club house next to the bar & restaurant. An indication of interest is all that is required at this stage. Just email Phil Nixon

From Heather Mayfield

Bill Levy, whom some of you know, has written a very interesting introductory book about my father, Nevil Shute, and his novels. BEYOND THE BEACH: THE WIT AND WISDOM OF NEVIL SHUTE is a short book, broadly divided into two parts, one being a biography of my Dad, and the other part being a series of quotes from most of his books, designed to give the flavour of the book. This is a novel approach, and a very effective one.

From Bill Levy

Over the past fifty years, Nevil Shute's novels have provided me with a sanctuary from many of the absurdities of contemporary life, given me much of my moral base, and helped to expand my personal horizons.

In January of 1999, I attended the Nevil Shute Centennial in Albuquerque, New Mexico and moderated the program, "Introducing Nevil Shute to 21st Century Readers."

I left the Centennial with a desire to do something to help "spread the word" about Nevil Shute and decided to write a book. Now, thirteen years later, having overcome publication difficulties and obtained permissions, I am finally able to share my passion for Nevil Shute and, hopefully, stimulate others to explore and re-explore his world.

The book's title is "Beyond the Beach: The Wit and Wisdom of Nevil Shute." It is divided into two sections. The first section, "Beyond the Beach," is an overview of Nevil Shute's life and career and consists of (1) a biographical sketch of Nevil Shute including a brief analysis of his work, and (2) a discussion of reasons why he should be read today and tomorrow. The second section, "The Wit and Wisdom of Nevil Shute," is divided up into nineteen sub-sections. Each sub-section contains quotations from one of Shute's books. These quotations demonstrate Nevil Shute's perceptions of people, places, and ideas; they also illustrate his subtle humor, his gentle yet masculine use of language, his unique sense of timing, and his genius for succinctly capturing a universal concept with deceptive simplicity. It is my hope that experiencing these portions of Shute's works will stimulate an interest in reading and rereading some of the most entertaining, addictive, touching, and pertinent fiction of the twentieth century. To this end, I am donating ten percent of any profits I make from this book to The Nevil Shute Norway Foundation's libraries towards the purchase of Nevil Shute's books, films, and audiotapes.

The cost of this ninety-two page book is $9.95 plus postage and shipping. I have kept the price down so that, hopefully, more Shutists who are constantly asked, "Why do you relish Nevil Shute so much ?" now have a vehicle to answer that question.

For further information on this and my other projects, please check out my website at Personalized autographed copies are available via my e-mail address at (note the 3 lll's in the address), by phone 973-945-9486, or at P.O. Box 225 Mendham, NJ USA 07945. Copies are also available through and Amazon.

Finally, I wish to thank Mrs. Heather Mayfield, Nevil Shute's daughter, for her kind words and support. I also wish to thank four individuals for their counsel: Dan Telfair, Linda Shaughnessy, Laura Schneider, and John Anderson, the author of the recently published definitive biography of Nevil Shute Norway.

Editor: I have been looking at and Amazon for this book. states that this book will be available soon, on Amazon I can't find it. So we'll have to wait a little for it. I for one want to read it.

From Bob Schwalbaum

Whilst reading all the enthusiastic entries in the newsletter a thought crossed my feeble mind.

I have another very favorite author.. W Somerset Maugham.

But I would find little compunction in discussing his books with another fan as I do with those of Nevil Shute.

There is some indefinable mystical quality in Shute's novels that makes all of us want to spend long hours in thinking about and talking about his wonderful books.. which I hope will live forever.. with many devoted fans.

From Michael Kennedy

On the 25 missions rule. That was 8th Airforce early in the war when flying from England over Germany. Losses were very high. Later in the war and in other theatres like North Africa, 50 missions were required. My cousin and his friends flew 50 missions from North Africa. He was a bombardier in a B 17 having "washed out" of pilot training earlier on. His friend and neighbor from Chicago, was a bombardier in a B 25 in NA. At one time it was equipped with a rapid firing 75mm cannon in the nose. He said that, when they fired it for a bit too long, the plane would nearly stall from the recoil.

From John W. Cooper

I wonder if our heroes in An Old Captivity and Vinland the Good were at the Ardnamurchan peninsula. Perhaps Thorgunna is more fact than fiction !

Archaeologists Find Viking Burial Site in Scotland


LONDON (AP) Archaeologists said Tuesday they have discovered the remains of a Viking chief buried with his boat, ax, sword and spear on a remote Scottish peninsula - one of the most significant Norse finds ever uncovered in Britain.

The 16-foot-long (5-meter--long( grave is the first intact site of its kind to have been discovered on mainland Britain and is believed to be more than 1,000 years old. Much of the wooden boat and the Viking bones have rotted away, but scraps of wood and hundreds of metal rivets that held the vessel together remain.

The archeologists also unearthed a shield boss - a circular piece of metal attached to the middle of a shield - and a bronze ring-pin buried with the Viking. They also found a knife, a whetstone to sharpen tools, and Viking pottery on the site on the Ardnamurchan peninsula on Scotland's west coast.

The boat and its contents were discovered by a team of archeologists from Manchester and Leicester universities working with the cultural heritage organization Archaeology Scotland and consultants CFA Archaeology.

Hannah Cobb, co-director of the project, said the discovery had exceeded expectations.

"A Viking boat burial is an incredible discovery, but in addition to that the artifacts and preservation make this one of the most important Norse graves ever excavated in Britain," she said.

The team of archeologists had been digging on the Ardnamurchan peninsula to learn more about social change in the area.

Vikings from Scandinavia made frequent raids on Scotland and what is now northeast England in the 8th and 9th centuries, and many Vikings set up settlements in the area.

Useful links are:-

Editor: When John send me this article in November, he also send me a link to an article in the New York Times. Unfortunately the NYT had already removed the article. John has send me two new links, which you'll find above. At the time of publishing the newsletter, these links worked.

From Andy Poole

My interest is in NSN's books. I have read them all several times and continue to re-read them every 2/3 years. The only ones I rarely re-read are his earliest books which I find very difficult to make sense of. Ruined City (in my opinion)) was the first book in which he showed his true ability as a narrator and he improved his "art" with each subsequent book. I'm impressed by his imagination in producing ideas such that all his books are different. Compare this to some modern popular authors who are constantly reworking the same basic ideas.

I also collect his books, both first editions and "reading copies". Whilst I have a complete set of NSN reading copies, my UK first editions collection is lacking all his early novels - A Town Like Alice and before. I find them increasingly difficult to find particularly with good dust jackets. The second-hand bookshop has almost totally been replaced by the internet, where prices tend to be prohibitively high. In the December newsletter, Laura Schneider asks what happens to collections when enthusiasts pass away. I, and I suspect other NSN fans would love the opportunity to purchase them and give them a good loving home displayed with others on bookshelves. Is this an idea that the foundation could facilitate ?

From Curt Chambers

Many years ago (maybe 30 or so) one evening when I was surfing television channels looking for something to watch I came across No Highway (in the Sky). I had no idea at that time that it had been made into a movie but I remember realizing immediately what it was. I can't remember just where I came into the story but it was probably where the Reindeer tail was on its test bed in the shed.

I watched it again recently and shook my head after it was over. Why was it necessary to have Jimmie Stewart in the lead ? He was an American, and while he did a credible job, weren't there any English actors up to the job ? And why did they have to do that incredibly insipid hurry-up ending ? (He glances up at a thermometer and suddenly realizes that temperature is a variable, and that that is why the test tail did not fail precisely on his calculated schedule. That is stupidly ridiculous even for a movie made in the '50's.)

Well, maybe not. There were some pretty stupidly ridiculous movies made from some pretty good stories back in the '50's; I am thinking of some like Peyton Place and one called A Summer Place.

I say stupidly ridiculous because I feel that even NS, in the book, was pushing things when he had his Mr. Honey calculate and expect his calculations on his test model to come within a few percentage points time wise of field failure. For something as complicated as an airplane tail section there are just too many variables between a test shed set up and conditions in the field. I am thinking of things like, not just temperature differences, but temperature changes, wind directional impact, wind buffeting, functional input (the actuation of the moving parts of the tail planes), plus potential variation in material composition, thickness, quality, fastener variations, etc. etc.

I guess I can understand that an eccentric like Honey might think that ordinarily his work was only concerned only with pure research, but then only up until the time when he was entrusted with something as large, expensive, and obviously connected with the outside world as the tail section of an already operating commercial airplane. Then when his calculations indicated premature failure in something as predominate as that tailplane I would think he might initially spend night and day going over and over his figures to try to find if he had made some miscalculation somewhere. And maybe he did that, but if it was me, after I could not find any mistake in my own calculations, I would be driven to find someone else that could corroborate my figures.

In any case, I am now re-reading No Highway (what does "in the Sky" have to do with it ?; it is not even remotely a part of the poem from which NS took the title) and I find that I have forgotten the depth in which he went with this story. And maybe it is that depth that gives it the credibility which I personally feel is lacking.

The real life disaster situation which was to ensue so few years after this story was published has nothing to do with this situation. I do not deny the actuality of vibrational metal fatigue, only the difficulty of accurate prediction of time failure of a complicated structure between test bed and field conditions.

I do not even remotely consider myself in the same league as NS as an engineer, but my own life experiences so causes me doubts on the technical aspect of this part of the story that I find it is the one of his books that I enjoy the least.


The first newsletter of 2012.
To all who read it I wish a Happy New Year.
Over in the Netherlands the new year already started with a record; we have had the warmest first of January, since they started recording the temperature, which is a long time ago. I'm not sure if we should be happy about that. Anyway, the year started very warm, about 10°C (50°F), but also very wet. See you all next month.