Nevil Shute Norway Foundation

Newsletter dated November 2010


From Keith Minton

As well as a Shutist I am a linguist, and I would very much like to produce a translation into Spanish of Ruined City (1938) which was Nevil Shute's early "breakthrough" novel based on the North East of England near Newcastle upon Tyne which is where I live. If anyone has any information of Spanish language publishers who would like to help me get launched on this enterprise, do please contact me with details. Ruined City is one of the few Shute novels today that has no Spanish version at all even second hand. Editorial Plaza y Janés in Spain published a Spanish translation way back and have no current plans for another. If you have any information on this please let me know. Ruined City is a great little novel which deserves to be known as widely as possible. They nearly made a film of it !

From Gail Field

I just wanted to email and let you know that I've just read Lost Horizon by Englishman James Hilton and it was very Shute-like. James Hilton also wrote the novels Goodbye Mr Chips and Random Harvest all of which were adapted to films and he wrote many more.

I enjoyed the style of his writing and would put it on a par with Shute, and intend to find some more of his books from the local library. I thought I'd let the other Shutists know about it.

From Harry Jones

I report to you the passing earlier this year of Dr. M.R.J. Wyllie (known as Jesse or "Doc") at age 90 in Virginia, USA. My uncle-by-marriage was born and raised in Capetown, South Africa and earned a degree in Chemical Engineering at the University of Capetown.

Just before World War II he went to England on a Rhodes Scholarship to Magdalen College, Oxford, and received his PhD in Chemical Engineering with a specialization in Petroleum Engineering. During the war he was a an officer (rising to Lt. Cdr.) in the RNVR and was seconded to the same unit as Nevil Shute Norway where he was an assistant special projects officer especially advising on the use of petroleum products.

While he never told me much about what went on, he did mention the Grand Panandrum and another project involving long chains dangling from an aircraft to confuse enemy radar. He certainly would have been involved in whatever project inspired the type of flame-thrower weapons outlined in "Most Secret."

Doc Wyllie went on to become a well-known champion amateur racer of sports cars in the fifties and sixties, an international expert in oil well exploration, development and production, and the top R&D executive with Gulf Oil.

From Anne Lind

I'd like to share with you my visit to the Tilak Memorial Library in Mussoorie, India. I am a short-term volunteer at Woodstock School, where my husband and I were on the faculty in the 1960s and 1970s. We are both Nevil Shute fans and I have recently subscribed to the newsletter. You can read about the library and see some photos at:-

The book collection is about half English, half Hindi.

They had a good selection of Shute books, although not quite complete. I checked out "In the Wet" and found that it was a first edition. The books are kept in glass-fronted bookcases, but are quite dusty and musty due to the annual monsoon. Several others are first reprints. For both books I checked out, I was the first entry on the due date-sheet at the back of the books. But they have obviously all been read; some are in quite poor condition.

From Tony Woodward

Several years ago I broached this subject in this newsletter. More recent subscribers may not have seen that posting so I think it is time to bring this up again. I would love to hear more about this.

I am sure I have seen several undocumented films that were based on Nevil Shute's novels - probably plagiarized and therefore unrecorded in the "official" archives.

35 years ago I saw a movie on late night TV in Canada from a US TV station, and about ten minutes into it a penny dropped and I said to myself "but this is the plot of "Ruined City". It was set in the US but the plot was the same ! I also think I saw "Requiem for a Wren" and "Pastoral" in similar circumstances but my memory is hazier here.

As I say, I brought this subject up before on this newsletter, but without much result. I don't think I was dreaming, and of course these books are eminently filmable so perhaps I was imagining it after reading them, but I don't think so. "Trustee from the Toolroom" (my favourite Shute novel) is crying out to be made into a movie, but of course it is too positive and too gentle. It hasn't got enough vampires or aliens or carnage with intestines spilling out, so I doubt if it ever will make it in a market that has parked its brain at the door of the theatre. Imagination is apparently no longer a requirement, but I thought that was a crucial element of all theatre. The result is both boring and gross. I never go to movies any more.

My last posting didn't resolve anything, although one person did indeed think that he too had seen "Ruined City", which was slightly encouraging. Perhaps there is now someone new who has these memories too, or has more information, and can set my mind at rest.

I wish I could nail these movies by title and hopefully get copies of them.

From John Anderson


The 80 th anniversary of the R.101 disaster has been marked by a number of events, one of which was a lecture entitled "The R.101 disaster revisited" given by Peter Davison and Dr. Giles Camplin. I went to this lecture when it was given at Bedford Museum. The lecture gave a very interesting account of the design, construction and building of R.101 together with a detailed account of her ill-fated flight on 5th October 1930 and the crash on the hillside near Beauvais in France.

The lecturers, both pro R.101, discussed the undoubted pressure applied by Lord Thompson that the airship should leave for India so that he could arrive back in England in time to address the Imperial Conference. Their implication was that, despite certain reservations, her officers seemed generally happy with the state of the ship on her departure. The impact of R.101 in France was fairly gentle, certainly survivable, but the 48 who died perished in the fire that rapidly engulfed the ship almost immediately after the impact. The lecture speculated on the source of ignition, possibly ignition of petrol fumes from one of the starting engines in a power car - the main engines were diesels. On impact one power car was apparently pushed up into the ship. Another possibility is fracture of a water pipe in the Control car which set off calcium flares that were used as drift sights. The cause of the fire will never be known with certainty.

What I found moving was my visit, earlier that day, to the churchyard at Cardington to pay my respects at the communal grave where all those who died are buried together and to see the wreaths laid there from the memorial service held at Cardington church earlier this month.

One legacy is that, those who are supporters of R.101, still resent the criticism of the Government ship by Shute in "Slide Rule". There is some truth that Slide Rule gives a distorted and rather biased account of R.100 vs R.101, implying that the "Capitalist R.100" was a "good ship" and the "Socialist R.101" was a "bad ship". The true story is much more interesting than that, as was revealed in the lecture. Their one quote from Slide Rule was that "Considered purely from the technical aspect, it was not very prudent for either airship to attempt a long flight at that stage of development. We did it, and got away with it." That is a fair reflection of the situation.

From Laura Schneider

Thanks to John Anderson, The Nevil Shute's Seattle web site is now officially active ! Go to and check it out. You'll find The Red Lion on 5th Avenue's hotel reservation link, which is ready to take your reservation. I have made mine. One of the many benefits of the Red Lion is that a full hot buffet breakfast is included in the room rate. The conference rate will be valid from September 16 - September 26, 2011, which is 3 nights before the conference begins through 3 nights after the conference ends. Conference Registration information will be on the web site early next year.

There is also a link to the "Visiting Seattle" web site. It's a government site and gives a lot of great information about all things Seattle. The Nevil Shute's Seattle Conference web site will be updated as new information becomes available. If you have any questions, please contact me at


David B. Horvath send me an interesting link again:

From the Netherlands, where it is the same as last month, cold and wet, see you all next month.