Nevil Shute Norway Foundation

Newsletter dated March 2009


From John Douglas

I'm pretty sure that the first Shute book I read was ON THE BEACH and I can't say that it got me hooked. Excellent in its way but pretty tough stuff and although the characters were wonderfully engaging, they all died along with the rest of the world. Not really a cheery place to get to although rigorously prepared for and explained through the course of the book.

I think the book that really got me hooked was NO HIGHWAY. I had watched the Jimmy Stewart movie and figured out from the credits that there was a novel on which it was based and tracked it down out of a desire to get deeper into the characters I had met on screen. I loved it and wanted more. I think it was because of the narrative voice, representing normality and reason and fitting in, portraying a truly odd and essentially unlikeable-appearing character who turned out to be very sympathetic and relatable and who did what was right at the necessary moment without worrying about the personal cost until after the fact. At the time I read the book, Ballantine Books in the U.S. (and Canada where I grew up) was publishing an extensive list of his titles and I tracked down copies of all that they had in print and the few other titles that were also available, mostly from another company called Lancer. The Ballantine Books editions all had a listing of other titles by Shute and I worked through the list and found almost every one that was on the list. I still have the slightly-to-seriously worn copies of those editions plus the extras I've bought over the years as replacements, loaner copies, ones with interestingly different covers, etc. You can never have too many copies of a Shute book, just in case you've loaned one out and then you decide you want to re-read it right now yourself.

It's hard to pick an absolute favorite among his books. My two top picks are usually ROUND THE BEND and TRUSTEE FROM THE TOOLROOM, the first because it's such a heart-wrenching story about loss, self-imposed penance and redemption and because it has one of the most amazing resolutions I've ever encountered in a story and the second because it puts a man of limited larger-world experience and ambition in a situation of almost unlimited challenge and shows how he finds a way, just as Theodore Honey did, to do the right thing no matter what the cost to himself. I'd follow those two very closely with A TOWN LIKE ALICE, PASTORAL, NO HIGHWAY, IN THE WET, THE CHEQUER BOARD, KINDLING and THE RAINBOW AND THE ROSE with THE FAR COUNTRY, AN OLD CAPTIVITY, THE BREAKING WAVE and BEYOND THE BLACK STUMP close behind them. There are a small handful, maybe five, of his books that I consider relatively minor but nonetheless re-readable and nothing that I'd say comes even remotely close to being a dud.

I'd probably try to get a bit of a sense of someone's taste before I picked a starter Shute and make a specific recommendation based on that although I wouldn't hesitate to recommend almost any of the ones on my favorites list above as a way to get acquainted with his charms and strengths as a writer.

Characters? Tom Cutter, Theodore Honey, Keith Stewart among many others. Genuine people struggling in challenging circumstances for goals both moral and practical, with good hearts and an unlikely attractiveness buried under sometimes prickly, sometimes just plain strange exteriors. Almost any of his narrators, not even always named or fully-developed, for the matter-of-factness of how they end up telling us marvellous things and for the plain, unadorned way that they speak from the page.

I don't think there's any practical method for promoting Shute in a major way to a wide audience in the world as it exists today but I think the books deliver as a reading experience that almost absolutely guarantees conversion to fans among people who come to them with the right spirit and the right expectations and that can almost always be sensed and then set up with a one-on-one pitch in personal conversation even with a relative stranger, as long as that person is a reader at heart. Sadly, it's all-too-rare these days to find actual readers which limits the opportunity to make those converts. It doesn't hurt to be able to hand over a copy as the starter and that's why all those extras come in handy.

A personal aside. I had been re-reading Shute regularly for well over twenty years and was familiar with the alternate U.S./UK titles on a number of his books and has alternate editions of most of them. I fell into a conversation with a woman who may be an even more dedicated fan of his work than I am and learned that VINLAND THE GOOD, which I had assumed was an alternate title for AN OLD CAPTIVITY, was a completely different thing and, bless her, she had two copies of perhaps the rarest of his titles. She sent her spare copy to me and I'll be forever grateful for that and for her enlightening me about the fact that it was a different book entirely. How often does a lifelong junkie get an opportunity to try an absolutely new fix of a drug that he's convinced that he's thoroughly familiar with? I still owe her a dinner for that gift and, if we're ever on the same side of the continent at the same time again, I intend to find a way to give her one of the great meals of her life.

John Douglas

New York, New York

From Harvey Fetterly

I read and reread Round the Bend in paperback about 30 years ago. One day I got this brainstorm to read other books by the same author, thinking that they might be really good too. The local used book store provided the proof and I started a collection.

I read and reread Round the Bend in paperback about 30 years ago. One day I got this brainstorm to read other books by the same author, thinking that they might be really good too. The local used book store provided the proof and I started a collection.

About six books later the bookstore had the whole set for sale in hardcover and for the last 30 years or so that has been 95 percent of my reading. I find it incredible that, even though I've almost memorized each book I still find gems of wisdom and/or literature each and every time I reread one.

I still purchase used Shute paperbacks to loan out and I choose which one by the person themselves. For instance: Beyond the Black Stump for my boosey older brother, The Far Country for my non-mechanical wife, Whatever Happened to the Corbetts for Dion, a jet engine mechanic and yachtsman and The Rainbow and the Rose for Steve, a young spray pilot. So far no one I've introduced Shute to is even half the fan I am but I'll give them more time. It is inevitable. My younger brother has read half or more of the Shute books so he is coming along nicely.

Harvey Fetterly

Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada


From John Anderson

I am pleased to announce that Colin Cruddas will be giving us a talk on aviation between the wars in relation to Airspeed. Colin is a well known aviation historian and writer and has published a number of books on aviation history, including one on air circuses and joyriding. He is also the archivist for Cobham PLC, the company founded by Sir Alan Cobham. Thanks to Colin original documents from the Cobham archive relating to the formation of Airspeed and the background to the writing of "Round the Bend" will be on display during the Conference. The speakers so far lined up will cover all aspects of Shute's life and work, both literary and technical. There will be something for everyone.

Registrations continued to arrive this month, including three for whom this will be the first Conference they have attended. They are particularly welcome.

Not registered yet? It's simple and easy to register online. Go to !

From Laura Schneider

VOLUNTEERS WANTED to "Read Nevil Shute" in York.

Background: Susan Batross, our beloved US Librarian died last year. One of the biggest honours of her life was being awarded US Branch of the NSN Foundation Library. Susan loved the communication she had with her library customers almost as much as she loved Shute's novels. Susan's first international conferences OZ2001. She came to UK2003, CC2005 and OZ2007 plus a few of the mini conferences held in England led by the UK contingent. Susan had planned on attending UK2009 and said the anticipation of the conference was helping her through the tough times of her illness.

Susan lead the "Read Nevil Shute" seminar in Alice Springs and was slated to reprise her role in York. John Anderson asked me to fill in for Susan. He didn't ask me to replace Susan because she is not replaceable. The words below are largely Susan's. I have taken her newsletter request for readers in Alice Springs and tweaked it to fit York.

I am honoured to be leading the "Read Nevil Shute" seminar at the Foundation's 6th biennial Conference, Airspeed to Airships, in York this July and do so in Susan's memory. I've been asked by John Anderson to lead this very popular seminar, "Read Nevil Shute". Introduced at the fourth Conference and continued at the fifth, this popular seminar will be repeated at the sixth, UK2009. As in the past, we will have ten readers choosing their favorite passages from Nevil Shute books to read for the rest of us to enjoy. Each reader will have eight minutes to read their passage and explain their choice. If you would like to volunteer to be a reader, please contact me. At this time, I don't necessarily need to know what book you want to read from but would like that information by June 1. I need to hear only from those of you who wish to read. E-mail me at to insure that you are among the first ten responders. I look forward to hearing from you.

Editor: Last month we placed an "add" in the Newsletter. This is something with which we do not normally deal. However, we are placing the "add" again this month, as it was placed with an incorrect email-address last month.

From Dan Telfair

Shutists who attended OZ2001 will remember the excellent presentation given by Chris and Penny Morton about building their boat "An Old captivity". Chris and Penny have decided to sell the boat, and would be very happy if a fellow Shutist might be interested in buying it. Anyone interested can contact Chris and Penny at

Thanks, and regards from The Land of Enchantment,


FROM Jim Sterling

Should "ANYBODY" have "more" than one vote?

What do "YOU" think ?

Written in 1950, Nevil Shute set his story "In the Wet" in England, Canada and Australia in the 1980's.

In an author's note he states:

"No man can see into the future, but unless somebody make a guess from time to time and publishes it to stimulate discussion it seems to me we are drifting in the dark, not knowing where we want to go or how to get there."

In chapter three, the central character, David Anderson (an Australian, a "quadroon," and a pilot in the RAAF) tells a retired British Navy how the multiple vote system works in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and "most commonwealth countries, in one form or another." [Anderson is a "three vote man"]:

  1. Basic vote - everybody (presumably a citizen) of age 21 gets this one
  2. Education - if you obtain a university degree / or an officer's commission
  3. Foreign travel - for earning your living outside the country for two years (including military service)
  4. Family vote - if you are married and raise two children to the age of 14 without getting a divorce (both husband and wife get it)
  5. Achievement vote - if your personal earned income is over a certain level (thought to be compensation for one who didn't get higher education, but worked to build up a business which employs others)
  6. Church vote - if you are an official of a "Christian" church
  7. "Queen's vote" - awarded by royal charter for service to the commonwealth (only about 10 a year are granted)

The reasoning behind the system is explained by Anderson thus:

"West Australia [the first state to bring in multiple voting] was walking away with everything. We got a totally different sort of politician when we got the multiple vote. Before that, when was one man one vote, the politicians were all tub-thumping nonentities and union bosses. Sensible people didn't stand for Parliament, and if they stood they didn't get in. When we got multiple voting we got a better class of politician altogether, people who got elected by sensible voters."

He has more to say on the subject, but that's it in a nutshell.

What do "YOU" think ?

Editor: When reading "In the Wet" I have been thinking about the multi-vote system. I think, that if applied correctly, this could be a very good system. What do you think ?

FROM John Cooper

The legacy of our Nevil endures, when his words and works are continuing to be used in education; as demonstrated in these articles:

"Using the works of Nevil Shute in engineering education" by Patrick H. 0osthuizen (2006)

Editor: John put a link here that did work, when he send me his email, however now the file has been removed. Fortunately I have downloaded it. I tried to put it on the web, but I didn't succeed. Anybody who wants to read this article, please send me an email and I will sent it to you.

""The Technological Utopias of Thorstein Veblen and Nevil Shute" by Fred Erisman (1994)

FROM Richard Michalak

Editor: Our webmaster, David Dawson-Taylor send an email last month to Richard Michalak, expressing his concern about the bushfires, that were raging though Australia at that time. Richard send him the following answer, and send me a copy too. I have asked Richard if he knew anything about Shute's house, Langwarrin, as this was in the area where the fires were most severe, but he replied, that he hadn't heard anything about it. Has anybody else ?

I thought readers might be interested that the description of the fires here exceeded those in The Far Country.

Sydney has been virtually unaffected but what has happened in Victoria has really shocked everybody.

The worst, most unstoppable and almost inescapable fires ever.

Hard to believe so many people could die so quickly with all the modern worlds things. Mobile phones, cars etc etc.

It moved so fast and so fiercely that people had seconds notice before it was on them in some cases.

One minute it was miles away over the horizon and in 90 seconds their houses were engulfed.

Worse than what was described in The Far Country.

But we are safe and well.

Thanks for your concern.

Hope you guys are not too cold.

From Jim Wells

In the recent Victorian bush fires the village of Marysville was almost completely burnt out with savage loss of life.

This of interest to Shutists because Stanley Kramer filmed the quite comic fishing scene in "On the Beach" (1959) in the Steavenson River at Marysville. The source for this is Philip Davey's "When Hollywood Came to Melbourne".

One can get an impression of Marysville (as it was) from Google Maps street view:,135.745076&sspn=46.849953,93.076172&ie=UTF8&t=h&z=11&iwloc=addr"

The hotel where Moira and Dwight stayed on the fishing trip is depicted in the film as the "Narbethong". Narbethong is a small village near the turn off to Marysville on the Maroondah Highway after the famous "Black Spur"' crossing of the Great Dividing Range. David Attenborough filmed his mountain ash trees episode here.

According to Davey the building used in the film as the hotel was a derelict mansion in East St Kilda, an inner suburb of Melbourne.

Narbethong was also badly affected by the fires.

The book has different locales. Moira and Dwight drive across the Dandenong Ranges in a Ford Customline to Warburton and then up to the ridge above the Yarra Valley (snow here) and down to Woods Point to stay in Jamieson. This is all to the east of Marysville.

This trip then would not have been for the faint hearted. After Warburton the road would have been very windy, narrow and unsealed (gravel surface). It had to be lengthened in the 1950's when the Upper Yarra Dam was built.

From Polly Thomas

All of you will have heard about the dreadful forest fires that are ravaging the country communities in Victoria, Australia at this time.

We have lived in Australia for 21 years now and never seen a bush-fire, thank goodness. This time last year we were driving through the affected area on our way back home to Tumbi-Umbi (aboriginal place name meaning a place of much water) after having stayed at Nevil Shute's house at Langwarrin - very nice it was too !

I am at present reading "The Far Country" and there is a very good description of bush fires in there, pages 115 to 120 in our paperback "Pan" edition published in 1967, fifth printing 1972.

From Babette Hills

Nevil Shute Lending Libraries

The Foundation provides lending library collections on three continents. Requests can be made through the web page at Nearly 200 items were borrowed in 2008, many of which are not available or difficult to obtain from local libraries. Our newest and busiest Librarian is Gary Bartell who lives in North Carolina and oversees the Susan Batross Memorial Lending Library. He made 60 shipments in 2008. The most popular request is for the 1946 version of The Pied Piper, starring Monty Woolley. This film was nominated for three Academy Awards. David Dawson-Taylor is the UK Librarian and doubles as the Web Master. Nancy Anderson manages library duties in Australia. Each library maintains a separate account for postage, packing material and replacement of items. Users make donations to cover shipping and often include a little extra. The accounts also allow upgrading some holdings. A Town Like Alice is now available on DVD. Audio books on CD have been added to the US and UK collections. An audiobook of The Chequer Board (cassettes) was added to the US Library. Complete catalogs of each collection may be found on the web page. The Foundation thanks each hard working librarian and all the users who have donated funds. You are helping ensure that Nevil Shute and his wonderful stories are not forgotten.


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

I had en email from Alison Jenner in which she asks:

Would you please ask whether anyone has identified the location of Mr Howard's fishing hotel at "Cidoton" in the Jura (in Pied Piper). Morez and St Claude are identifiable, but I can't find any other clues, apart from Ross, in An Old Captivity, travelling by train in that region.

So has anyone looked in to this already, and if so, what are your findings. Answers can go directly to Alison, but please send me a copy too, as it may be interesting for the Newsletter. Besides that I had a look at this last summer. I think that the village of Landchaumois was renamed Citodon by Shute. Landchaumois is situated between St. Claude and Morez.

Thank you all for the emails that you have send me. Because of that the Newsletter is longer than last month, and I hope you'll enjoy reading it as much as much as I enjoyed putting it together. Keep those emails coming.

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