Nevil Shute Norway Foundation

Newsletter dated May 2009

Shirley Anne Norway
1935 to 2009

Shirley, the younger of two girls, entered this world on March 6, 1935, being born in Portsmouth, England, to Frances Mary Heaton and Nevil Shute Norway.

Early in her life she showed the independent spirit which characterized her whole life, as she ran away from boarding school at age 8.

She was a complete non-conformist. Rules did not apply to her. Upon graduating from school in Australia, she joined the Navy, but stayed in the service only long enough to win the diving championship. She did not like Australia, and, as soon as she was able, she returned to England, where she held a variety of jobs. She was a tour guide for a while, taking tourists through various European countries. Then she joined Lindblatt, and worked for them as a tour guide specialising in tours through the Indian Ocean.

It was while she was in this job that she first heard of Transcendental Meditation, which became a very great part of her life. She went to India and studied under a disciple of the Maharishi for a few years, then on to Thailand for several months. She returned to England, and opened a Transcendental Meditation center in a small village in Cornwall, then later moved to Ireland and opened another center in Dublin.

Later, she settled in Fairfield, Iowa, close to the Maharishi International University, and she found many like spirited and like minded people there. While there she held a variety of jobs, chief among them was selling tack at the quarter horse shows, travelling around with the horses. She loved that, but had to give it up when she became sick. On her recovery, she changed careers, taking a course in truck driving, and drove an 18-wheeler until she was let go because of the number of little bingies she had. Then she worked in a bookshop for 2 or 3 years, probably the only 9 to 5 job she ever had.

For a while, she was Vice President of the Nevil Shute Norway Foundation, formed to keep alive the memory of that author, her father, and his works.

Eventually she tired of Iowa, and eventually settled near Toronto in Canada, where, as usual, she made some very good friends. She had always wanted to return to India, her spiritual home, so in October last year, she returned. Unfortunately she got sick in Delhi, was hospitalised there and passed away shortly after her release from the hospital. She had often said that she wanted to die in India, so she got her wish, only, possibly, rather earlier than she had anticipated, April 2, 2009.

Shirley was charismatic. She will be remembered for the playful and mischievous twinkle in her eye, and the ring of her giggles and laughter. People gravitated to her as bees to honey. Once you met her, you could never forget her. She loved computers and the internet, cats, knitting, gardening, reading. In her youth she was an avid sailor of small boats.


From Charles D.

Which book got you "hooked" on Shute and why did it have that affect? My first book was "The Legacy". I was just browsing the card catalog [Remember those?] looking for something about Norway, since my grandparents were going there for a visit. I suppose a couple lines or the piece of dust cover pasted inside the cover convinced me to take it home. Of course I picked up another volume the next time I went to the library. Later, when I attended University, I discovered second-hand bookstores, and started my collection. I am also one who saved "On the Beach" to the very last, although I'd seen the movie. By the way, I own that first book. The library had a book sale and I bought a couple of the old Nevil Shute novels.

Which book did you like the best and why ? I think I'd have to pick "Pastoral". I have read it several times. I suppose it's a romanticized depiction, but I liked it. I think it is credited with being one of the best pro-British propaganda novels of the war. It combines the bravery, the technology, and the human side of WWII. Those guys had days of down time between short periods of pure terror, but then they had to get up in the air and go at it again. I had an uncle in the 8th Army Air Force, and another one in the CBs who married my aunt during the war. I know that they tried to plan a future life even while they were under extreme pressure, and filled with uncertainty. The same thing was going on with my younger brother and his wife during the Viet Nam war.

When you give Shute books to non-Shute readers, which one do you like to start them with ? (I never start them with On the Beach)

It seems like the most common Shute book still found in used bookshops is probably "Checkerboard". [After "On the Beach", a scholastic required reading volume.] Whether it is not in demand presently, or whether it was the most gifted in its day is hard to say. Maybe the book dealer think it's the only one that will sell. The last one I gave away was "In the Wet", because one of the characters had the same first and last names of the recipient. What are those odds? Otherwise, I think it would be hard to top "The Legacy" or "A Town Like Alice".

When I find a new author, I'd like to start with the first book that he wrote, and advance with his career and craft. For my engineering friends, it would be "Slide Rule". For my scale-modeling friends, it would be "Trustee from the Toolroom". Who are some of your favorite Shute characters ? I'd have to say that "Mr. Honey", from "No Highway", is high on the list. Secondly, I think the pilot Ross, from "An Old Captivity". What do you do to promote Shute in this day and age ? I guess it's not very much, but after the Bridge Collapse in Minneapolis, I suggested "No Highway" for the book reading sponsored by Minnesota Public Radio. Maybe they considered it, but it didn't make the final cut.

From Carolyn Ramm

After reading some of the others' stories about what first drew them to Shute, I wanted to share mine. The book was "No Highway" - one that doesn't seem to have quite as much of a following as some of the others, but which I regard as a real work of art. I was 11 at the time (my father, also a Shute fan, had suggested I read it, probably not thinking I really would) and despite the fact that I had no special interest in the subject matter of the plot (aviation and aeronautics) I was immediately drawn in. Why? Because I identified with the character Elspeth Honey, the protagonist's young daughter - once again proving that Shute really does have something for everyone! I also love "In The Wet" and, of course, "A Town Like Alice".


The organisers of UK2009 would like to put out a call for donations/pledges of prizes for a raffle to be held at the conference. Proceeds will go to the organisation's funds. Items related to Shute, his interests and his works are especially welcome. For those not able to bring their donated prizes with them to York can email Philip Nixon or John Anderson to arrange postal arrangements.

As with all previous Conferences, there will be a display of items relating to Nevil Shute's life and work. Thanks to the generosity of various people we will have original documents, letters and prints on view. We are also planning a display relating to model engineering - one of Shute's hobbies - and memorabilia including an original Fuller Slide Rule of the type used in the calculations on the R.100.

Please remember that Registration for the Conference at current prices will end on 31st May. After that Registrations will still be accepted but with a late payment fee. So do get those Registrations completed and paid for by the end of May. Also the Novotel, our Conference venue, is holding a block of 30 rooms for attendees. So far about 15 of these have been booked so there are still some available. However any rooms not booked by 14th June will be released and you may have to pay more than the agreed Conference room rates. If you want to book at the Novotel the email address is Please be sure to mention that you are attending the Nevil Shute Conference and use the reference number given on the Conference website.

Those of you who are coming to York may care to do a little (pleasurable!) homework in preparation. I suggest you re-read Slide Rule and also The Rainbow and the Rose - the part about Johnnie Pascoe and Brenda Marshall which so evocative of the flying that Shute did in his Yorkshire years.


From Dan Telfair

In reply to the question of multiple voting:

I am completely in favor of multiple voting, although I believe the system described in IN THE WET was overly complicated. The basic idea should be to give those who contribute more a greater voice in the affairs of their country. That is slightly different from the concept that those who are more deserving or more capable should have a greater voice. The problem with the system described by Nevil is in deciding who is more deserving or capable. For example, I doubt that officials of a Christian church would be more deserving than rabbis, or any other people who dedicated their lives to the spiritual welfare of others.

I would favor a system for the United States that would grant votes based on service and financial contribution to the country.

From a service standpoint, I would want everyone to spend at least two years in service to their country before being granted full citizenship and being allowed to vote. The two years might be military service, work in public health hospitals, national parks, law enforcement, social work, street cleaning, or anything else that required unpaid voluntary or fairly low-paid work in the service of the country and its inhabitants. Simply put, an accident of birth would not automatically grant citizenship. People born in the United States would be "residents". Full citizenship would have to be earned. Public service of this sort would not be mandatory, but it would be required if a resident wanted to achieve citizenship.

Robert Heinlein proposed a similar system in his juvenile fiction book STARSHIP TROOPERS. (The book was interesting. The movie left a great deal to be desired)

From a financial contribution standpoint, I would want citizens to earn additional "temporary" votes based on the amount of tax they paid (earnings tax - not purchase tax). For example, for an election in a given year, each person might be awarded one additional vote for each $5,000 in income tax he or she paid in the preceding year. I would also include tax on all forms of income - interest, dividends, etc. Thus, those who contributed more to the cost of running the country would have a greater say in how it was run. This idea would have the additional advantage of encouraging citizens to pay their taxes. The "rich" would no longer be so inclined to try to get out of paying taxes on their wealth. While I am by no means in the "rich" category, I would certainly be happier about paying my full share of taxes if doing so would give me a greater voice in the affairs of my country.

In IN THE WET, Nevil said that England had been ruined by politicians spending all her wealth on the least deserving, and on those who contributed the least, in order to buy their votes. Those who contributed the least benefited at the expense of those who contributed the most.

As an interesting sidelight, Nevil was not the first to propose multiple voting. Mark Twain proposed a similar system in THE CURIOUS REPUBLIC OF GONDOUR, published in the Atlantic Monthly in October, 1875. I have often wondered if Nevil might have read the article at one time or another, and liked the idea to the point that he made it a major focus of one of his books. Those who would like to read Mark Twain's version of multiple voting may do so at It is interesting to note that Mark Twain's article was placed in the Mad Prophet section of the magazine.

Regards from The Land of Enchantment,

Dan Telfair

From Nelson Pole

I have been "lurking" on this list from the beginning, but the latest post has gotten me riled. The the multi-vote system awards an extra vote to Christian clergy but not to those of other faiths. Maybe that seemed OK at the time of publication but today it is blind prejudice, especially in light of all the pedophile and prostitution scandals. My proposal would be to take away one vote from any clergy.

Editor: Wouldn't it be better, if clergy are given an extra vote, to include other world religions too, and more important I think, to take away the extra vote(s) if somebody committed a criminal offence ?

From Bob King

I am so very appreciative of Jim Sterling's review of In the Wet and the multiple vote system. I thought I was the only one that realized the significance and importance of this kind of thinking. Even though it may not be my favorite of Shute's books, I believe it may well be the most significant thing he wrote. One Man/One Vote seems always to put in office the guy who promises the most.

From John Anderson

This is in reply to Jim Sterling's item Shute's multiple voting idea. What he wrote about in "In The Wet" needs putting into the context of the time and circumstances in which he wrote it. He had just abandoned his native England, uprooted his family and moved to Australia. He had lived through five years of the post-war austerity in England with shortages, rationing, strikes, nationalisation and the Labour Government. He had battled with the Ministry of Fuel and Power to obtain a supplementary petrol ration - his argument that he was a significant earner of dollars from book sales, fell on deaf ears. He also paid over 95% income tax on the top part of his earnings. He was totally fed up with the restrictive practices and petty minded attitude of the Government and civil servants.The election of another Labour government in February 1950 was the last straw. He was not prepared to live under another Labour government, perhaps for 5 more years. He left in July 1950.

He liked what he found in Australia "this exceedingly attractive country" as he called it. As with the Canadians he admired the way they did things, their energy and vigour. The announcement of the visit of the (then) Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip to Australia in 1952 got him thinking about what Britain might be like when she had been on the throne for 30 years. (That visit never took place because of the death of King George VI in 1952). He had the idea that the only way to get rid of socialist government in England would be to introduce the multiple voting system so that you would get a "better" class of politician. He put forward his ideas in the way he knew best - in a novel. In The Wet was one of what he would call his "socially useful" novels, written without regard to sales, to get his ideas across and trade on his popularity as a writer to reach a large audience. (Ruined City and Round the Bend were two other "socially useful" novels).

Had he stuck it out in England for a few more years he would have seen a marked improvement in conditions, the end of rationing, the post-war boom, increased agricultural production, and Conservative governments from 1951 to 1964. He might well have changed his mind about emigrating. Talking about In the Wet, he later wrote that he had "forgotten the resilience of my own people".

Could a multiple voting system be made to work? In my view not these days in the way Shute envisaged it. Think of the problems - Church vote? you would have to include leaders of other faiths, Family vote? Married couples and two children? you would have to include co-habiting couples, re-marriages, adoptive parents etc. etc. Personal achievement vote? - yes let's give it to the Bankers who've been in the news recently (although I suppose you could take this vote away from them!). Also I do not believe any country would consider for a moment introducing such a system in these egalitarian times.

So interesting idea Mr Norway and thank you for including it in one of your best-loved novels. It provokes discussion more than 50 years after you wrote it. However, I think you were a far better writer than political theorist.

From Larry Dittmer

Readers of "In the Wet" might be interested to know that a system of plural voting was in use in Belgium after the constitution was amended in 1893 to provide for manhood suffrage. At the same time, a system of plural voting went into effect. A married man, or a widower with children, or the owner of a certain amount of property, had two votes; while a citizen who satisfied certain educational requirements or who held a public office had three votes. In 1919 suffrage was partially extended to women.

Nevil Shute would have probably been aware of this voting system, as it was in place during WW1 when his brother was fighting on the continent. In the early development of voting rights most nations went through a period when property ownership was a requirement for voting. Clergy also had early voting rights. For the centuries of the Holy Roman Empire, there were three church electors and four or more lay electors, who were elector-princes of states.

It is difficult to imagine an orderly transition from universal suffrage to plural voting, although political action committees and television advertising have some of the same effect.

From Sherill Anderson

Hi there! I have recently started to reread my Nevil Shute collection. I'm happy to say that I have them all. I picked up many in the late 1950's and early 1960's from a couple of used book stores and bought the last ones new.

I just finished Lonely Road. It has been so long since I read it that it was quite new to me. I see that Nevil had it published in 1932. Here's the Author's Note:

"This was the third of my books to be published, in 1932, when I was thirty-three years old. It took me about a year to write it, in the evenings after a day spent on other work, and it was written twice through from start to finish. I was evidently still obsessed with police action as a source of drama, but with the growth of experience in writing, the character studies and the love story appear to have smothered the plot a bit, and these aspects of the book now seem to me to be the best.

"The first chapter was quite frankly an experiment, and one which pleases me still. It was a dangerous experiment, however, for a young writer to make in the first pages of a book, for it defeated a good many readers who might have enjoyed the story if they had been able to read on. In spite of this the book did moderately well in this country and in America. In 1936 a film was made from it at the Ealing Studies, starring Clive Brook and Victoria Hopper. Nevil Shute"

I would love to see that film and think that it could be remade now and be a fine success. The story has action and romance and is so poignant. What a fine writer Shute was. I wish he could have lived longer to write more for all of us "Shutists".

From Tom Kellock

I lived in a house belonging to Gleneagles Hotel Perthshire 1924 to 1941 and every year circa 1929 three air circus teams led by Alan Cobham and others gave displays in a large field nearby. Have you any record of this, if so, please point me in the right direction. When flying was finished for the day the aircraft were taxied across the field to shelter behind a large hedge for the night , and the pilots let the children stand on the wings holding on to the fuselage. This kindled my interest in aircraft and I was an aircraft ground engineer all trade for 40 years.


From John Anderson

The next meeting of the Trust is at Howden School on 25th June. The subject this year is the Tirpitz, the German battleship that was sunk by 617 Squadron using Barnes Wallis' Tallboy bomb. The speaker will be Richard Morris (Professor of History at Leeds University and author of "Guy Gibson" etc) and Rob Owen (Official 617 Sqn Aircrew Association Historian) will chair the meeting, together with veterans of 617 Sqn and IX Sqn.

I had the pleasure of attending last year's meeting and am looking forward to being at this meeting. Any local Shutists who can make will, I'm sure, be welcome.


A very sad start to the Newsletter this month. I wish strength to the family in these hard times.

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


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