Nevil Shute Norway Foundation

Newsletter dated July 2011

Letters to the Editor

From Laura Schneider

Seattle Conference Update

The conference is less than 3 months away and the excitement continues to mount! Please check out the official web site,, to see the schedule and topics of our stellar presenters, as well as the memorable excursions we're taking. It is wonderful seeing the combination of first time participants, veterans participants and those who we haven't seen in awhile. Australia will be well-represented in Seattle, as will Great Britain and the United States. Canada and the Netherlands are also on board.

Please contact me if you have any questions, comments, etc. at

From Padre Daniel Beegan

I much appreciated the history of Nevil Shute Norway's father and the GPO in Dublin. My father served in the British Royal Army, 1st Battalion, Irish Guards, while his older brother Thomas, was in one of Michael Collins' Flying Columns in the IRA.

I am a monarchist myself, sort of on the Dutch and Scandinavian models, where the royal families don't eat up the budget as they do in the UK. But there is stability in having a monarch, and certainly the Dutch monarchy acquitted itself well during WWII.

From Linda Schrock-Taylor

I chuckled when I read to quote about the Irish having long memories because...

Recently, on a TV series (Law & Order: Criminal Intent), Dt. Eames described her father as having "Irish Alzheimer's". When asked to explain, she said, "He forgets everything except his grudges."

I say that with warmth as I do like Ireland and the Irish very much.

From Tony Woodward

Has anyone else noticed that the NSN novel you are reading at the moment is instantly the very best of all of them. That surely has to be the mark of a good author. I include Robert Goddard in this - I just got his latest in the mail but I haven't read it yet. I am re-reading Jane Austen at the moment - and I doubt that any other author, even Nevil Shute, will survive for 200 years as she has ! What an incredible writer ! But I am also salivating at the prospect of a new unread Robert Goddard, sitting on my bedside table until I finish Pride and Prejudice ! Back in the 1950's I know I would have eagerly awaited Nevil Shute's latest in about the same way, and of course C.S. Forester as well.

I recently re-read my NSN quota for this year of Round the Bend, Pied Piper, the Rainbow And the Rose, In the Wet, and An Old Captivity. This last was never one of my favourites but I thought I'd been neglecting it so I'd better read it again, and naturally I found new things in it that I hadn't noticed before, as I always do. And I liked it more than I had previously. I shall no doubt re-read Ruined City very soon - one of my top three.

Shute often used dreams as his connection to the paranormal world he couldn't admit to publicly. And every time he does it brilliantly and seamlessly. An Old Captivity reminded me of this, but of course In the Wet and The Rainbow and the Rose also contain dream sequences advancing the narrative. And then the planchette sequences in No Highway indicate his curiosity about the paranormal, and the fact that he uses them to validate the narrative show his approval of them. He appears never to have admitted this wholeheartedly as it would have damaged his career. Never mind - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was a confirmed spiritualist too ! Nevil Shute was just a man with an open mind, not one who joined causes. He used this device as a way of advancing his narrative, but the fact that he even thought to use it indicates his sympathy for the idea. I feel for him because I am like that too - I am not a ghost hunter or a spiritualist but I am at least willing to entertain the possibility. I just I need proof and so far I haven't got it.

You're not going to post this to the newsletter are you ? Oh darn, I suppose you are because you are short of material ?

Editor: Yes I posted it, and I just had to post the last sentence too !!!

From Barbara Stockwell

I came to Nevil Shute rather late in life, but am trying to catch up. I first became acquainted with his books on audio cassettes. I travel a lot since I live some 60 miles from the nearest big city. It is hard to find books on tape/CDs which aren't crime oriented. Pastoral was my first N. Shute find, and I loved it. I bought the book. Since then I have bought several books and just finished Trustee. I am looking forward to the Conference in Seattle. It is wonderful that some of the great (highly literate) authors of earlier eras are being reprinted. I buy Dorothy L. Sayers and Georgette Heyer, also. So much of today's fiction is pornographic trash (not to put it mildly !). I am looking forward to meeting the Shutists ! Such a fun name !

From Julie Meyers

Just a note about your comment that your daughter had started reading Nevil Shute's novels. Like your daughter, I started reading Nevil Shute novels at about 13 years of age. The novel I really loved at that age, and read many times, was An Old Captivity. It had a touch of the mysterious in the feverish dreams that the pilot, Donald Ross, has about the early Norse settlements in Greenland. That book started me on a life-long journey reading Shute's many wonderful novels.

From Diane Lachance

My husband handed me a little booklet published by The Week titled "The Week presents The 100 BEST BOOKS to read on a desert island." Each page is a list of books chosen by a well known person. Appearing on P.J. Pourke's list is The Chequer Board. It is among six titles he chose, and only three titles were given further press at the bottom of the page with a picture of the book front cover. The Chequer Board was among those three as well.

Here is what is written about The Chequer Board in this publication:

The Chequer Board by Nevil Shute (out of print). Shute is known for On the Beach, the world's best novel in which everyone dies in the end. The Chequer Board, by contrast, is a story about race relations that can actually be read for pleasure. The plot turns upon, of all things, ordinary middle-class decency and nice manners, and includes a vigorous argument in favor of free trade and a subtle defense of the Pelagian heresy.

From Charles D.

I am intriqued by the title: "Parallel Motion". Does this refer to a drafting instrument ? (Draughting in English).

In my early years of drafting, we used an adjustable table with a cable-controlled straight edge constrained to maintain parallelism as you moved it on the table. Vertical lines were drawn using right triangles. Lines at 30, 45, 60 degrees were also commonly drawn with right triangles. Other angles could be drawn with the use of a protractor, but could be constructed with a compass or dividers if you wanted to make the effort. Trigonometry Tables and Logarithm Tables were part of the designers "kit". High quality scales were a point of pride. "Alteneder" was the top brand.

I preferred a 20-40 scale and a 1-50 scale. The 50 scale actually worked as a double-size scale. I liked working with the decimal system, referred to as "Engineers' Scales". Many of the drafting scales were made with a triangular cross section which included a 30-60 scale. I never had the occasion to use those particular scales and am not sure why anyone would draw anything 1/3 or 1/6 size. There were many old-timers who still were stuck on fractions and therefore used scales with fractional inches marked out. These are referred to as "Architects' Scales".

We never used India ink for drafting. Most of those inking instruments in the standard drafting kit were never used. We used lead holders and each draftsman had his lead "pointer". There were several hardnesses for the leads. Hard for thin, light lines, Softer for wide, dark lines. Towards the end of paper drafting, automatic pencils were used with 0.5 mm leads or perhaps 0.7 mm leads, which did not require pointing.

We had a very few "tracers", women who laid a linen cloth "paper" over the pencil drawing, with a "light table" underneath. They did their tracing with India Ink, and these very valuable drawings became the master copies in the drawing vault. Some were used in operator and repair manuals, etc. At some point, years later, these were microfilmed and as far as I know the originals were burned. Many of these were absolute works of art and should have been hung in galleries. It is sad how someone's best efforts and lifelong production can become so worthless in a short time. Makes you wonder, in retrospect, why you took life so seriously. [See the Jack Nicholson movie: "About Schmidt".]

In about 1970, drafting machines almost universally replaced the old-fashioned parallel straight edge on drafting tables. These include both a horizontal rule and a vertical rule with a protactor built-in. The rules were interchangeable for the normal scales. The system would allow you to come back to your basic horizontal setting, which you would align with the margin of your drawing. The mechanism, which varied in different designs, guaranteed that you could move it to any position on the board and parallelism would be maintained.

Computer Assisted Drafting, CAD, or else they'd no longer be employed in the company. A few die-hard types managed to keep their tables, based upon the fact the company valued their high creativity more than their flouting of "rules". Unfortunately, the science of managing creative people was not even gestating at this time. In some ways this also came into play when nearly everyone was relegated to tiny cubicles. A very few high performers got waivers to keep their offices and book cases, etc. But it rankled some. It was meant that only management should have such amenities, not mere design engineers.

From John Anderson (Note: New email address is

Nevil Shute and Shrewsbury School.

Last Saturday I made a visit to Shrewsbury School where Nevil Shute was a pupil from 1913 to 1916. My purpose was to make a video recording of a talk by Dr Mike Morrogh entitled "Nevil Shute and Shrewsbury School". Mike is Head of history at the School, their archivist and a Shute enthusiast. When a group of us Shutists visited last year he gave an excellent talk on what the School was like in Shute's time there and its influence during his formative years and his subsequent writing. We were so impressed with what he talked about, and the contemporary records he showed us, that I asked if we could video a reprise of his talk to be shown at Seattle.

This he kindly agreed to do, giving up his Saturday afternoon to record the presentation. It turned out to be more than just a re-run, for he had done more research into the archives, Shute's academic performance, more photographs and a another tantalising possibility. Thanks to Mike we now have a very full picture of Shute's time at Shrewsbury, which subjects he was good at, which he was weaker on and in which subject he came top of his class - not necessarily what you might expect! The ethos of the school and the influence of his teachers and housemaster gave Shute values and characteristics that he retained throughout his life.

This fascinating recorded presentation will be shown at the Seattle Conference and is one more reason (should you really need one) to attend. A memorable visit and, as a bonus, Mike showed me some of the School's collection of what they call Darwiniana - their collection of items belonging to perhaps a slightly more well known Shrewsbury pupil - Charles Darwin.


Thank you very much for all the copy you sent me this month. Keep up the good work.