Nevil Shute Norway Foundation

Newsletter dated November 2013

Letters to the Editor

From Chris & Penny Morton

TAS 2013, "The Rainbow Connection", is over and what a week ! After nearly two years of planning, even Chris and I relaxed and enjoyed it...once the Monday morning speeches were over ! All we can say is "If you didn't come, you missed a wonderful gathering !"

The weather gods could have been kinder, especially on the boat excursion day, but Shutists are a resilient bunch whose spirits are hard to dampen. Even when sprayed by an enthusiastic blow-hole, most just laughed, enjoying the adventure. Camaraderie was, as normal, "Shutastic" !

Though a small group, we had a core representation of avid Shute followers willing to travel almost to the bottom of the globe. Presenters, both experienced and local, were excellent. The powerful Lawrence Johnston film "Fallout" was a moving drama, starring Heather, along with some Hollywood legends. The two excursion days explored tangible Shute connections in this little corner of Tasmania, and we hope everyone enjoyed the week's diversity as much as we did.

All the work of organising melted into oblivion as the days flew by, and we began to appreciate just how much we owed to Laura and John for their constant guidance/support over the past two years. Most of all, a huge thank you to Heather for making the long trip to be here, making the week so very special. Everyone who met her was thrilled and enchanted.

Thank you all for coming; any gathering is only as successful as its participants and we had the best ! The positive feedback has been overwhelming, as have the heartwarming e-mails and hand-written notes From appreciative delegates and presenters.

There are some wonderful photos/comments on Facebook, apparently many comments on Twitter and a full report will be on the website shortly.

Lastly, we hope our U.K. friends aren't suffering in the violent storms we've seen on TV.

From Lawrence Johnston

FALLOUT opened here last night at the Cinema Nova in Carlton. We had a great night and have been getting amazing reviews.

ABC Television "At the Movies" with Margaret Pomeranz and David Stratton gave us 3 and half stars (you can only get four) We have been getting other 4 star reviews in The Age and a couple of others with more to come.

Here is the latest From CINEPHILIA which I thought I would send to you to read and send on to friends.



"Fallout"- Australia 2013- Directed by Lawrence Johnston
Running time 89 minutes - Rated M
Reviewed by Sharon Hurst
4 stars


In 1959 Hollywood came to Melbourne in the form of director Stanley Kramer shooting the film adaptation of Neville Shute?s novel, On the Beach, which posits an end of the world scenario in which nuclear war has erupted and Melbourne is waiting for an atomic cloud to travel south and kill the last surviving humans. Fallout is a documentary tracing the story of Shute himself, From his early days in Britain through to his emigration to Australia and the subsequent worldwide response to his novel and the film.

Here’s another example of an excellent film picked up by only one local cinema (thank heavens for the Nova!). Fallout works on several interwoven levels. It is at once the story of a famous novelist whose life was filled with fascinating details. It is also a depiction of a more naive and insular time when a Hollywood movie being made here in Melbourne was the talk of the town, as was the presence of famous stars Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, Antony Perkins and Fred Astaire. And underlying all this is the ominous theme of Shute’s novel which, when talking today about the still-relevant possible annihilation of the human species, is nothing short of compulsory reading for war-mongers everywhere.

The director’s artful use of archival footage is impressive flowing along almost seamlessly into the main narrative. The film hits a nerve From the opening scene in which J.F.K. contemplates in a speech the possibility of nuclear annihilation and we then see the iconic image of a billowing exploding A-bomb. We are then taken back to a more genteel time in which we learn of Shute’s early life in Ealing, England where he was an aviation engineer before pursuing writing. He then headed with his family to Oz and began churning out novel after novel with On the Beach being perhaps closest to his heart.

Because of this, when the films producers made script changes at odds with the novel, Shute became irate, which references another meaning of the films clever title? A total falling out between the author and the director.

The shooting of the film brought an even more renowned fallout, that between Ava Gardner and the press, the actress famously declaring Melbourne to be a good place to make a film about the end of the world.

Amongst the interviewees are Shute's daughter, Heather Mayfield, Kramers widow, Karen, and a young star of On The Beach, Donna Anderson. Thankfully talking heads are not overdone. From various newspaper stills and archival footage we also get a fabulously nostalgic look at Melbourne in the 1950s including inquisitive Frankstonians turning out to watch the film's shooting.

The film also looks at the development of nuclear weaponry and the dropping of two A-bombs on Japan during World War 2. The initial devastation and deaths, followed by the ongoing tragedy of radiation sickness are shown in horrifying old news clips, and then references to ongoing nuclear testing in the USA and Australia drive the point home. A man-made Armageddon felt like a real possibility back then. At the time, Shute deliberately wanted to bring these issues to public consciousness and he ultimately achieved his aim, his famed novel sold 100,000 copies in six weeks and the film helped kick-start nuclear disarmament talks.

Fallout finishes with a sobering thought for an era in which many fanatical governments combine medieval attitudes with 21st century technological weaponry: perhaps Shute’s then-futuristic novel, with its foreboding of tragedy still points to one possible, terrible future.

From Charles D

Editor: Our friend Charles D has been busy - he send in several interesting emails.

The Lark of Duluth

Jack El-Hai's 'Non-Stop: Turbulent History of Northwest Airlines’ - This book may be of interest to Shutists:

ST. Paul, Minn. — On July 5, 1927 the first Northwest Airlines flight to carry ticketed passengers took off From Minneapolis headed for Chicago. But over Hastings the engine suddenly "went deader than a smelt," recalled one of the passengers, and the plane was forced to land in an open field.

It was a fitting start for an airline that grew out of a mail carrier service the year before, and that would have its ups and downs over the next 80 years. The story is told in a new book, "Non-Stop: A Turbulent History of Northwest Airlines," by Jack El-Hai.

Northwest Airlines was founded by Lewis Brittin, and at different times both Charles Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart worked for the airline. It was the first passenger service to provide oxygen masks on planes. And its expertise in cold weather flying was tapped during World War II to help defend Alaska From possible Japanese attacks. Northwest was also the first airline to provide service to Japan after the war.

Quote: When the war started and my father joined the army, our mother went to work at nights in the control tower of Davis-Monthan Army Air Field, the base outside of Tucson.
Toward the end of the war, the planes that flew out of there on their way to war were mostly brand-new Boeing B-29 Superfortresses. After the war was over, all but a few of the B-29s that could still fly, came back to Davis Monthan, part of which became a graveyard for the decommissioned planes of World War II. Their flight path took them directly over our house. My mother would catch the sound of their engines and run outside and wave at them frantically. We kids would wave, too. She had launched them into their battle From her control tower, and she must have felt some obligation and no small amount of emotion to welcome home the ones that made it back alive.
I was steeped in the sound of the B-29’s in my childhood and often tried to emulate it in the string arrangements in my recordings. It seems to appear in the grind between the cello and double bass, particularly in the interval of a fifth.
End Quote:

From “Simple Dreams”, Linda Ronstadt’s Autobiography. Simon & Schuster, New York 2013

Linda Ronstadt is an American Pop and Classics singer. The Davis Monthan “graveyard” still exists and is an unbelievable collection of legendary aircraft that are mothballed or being reduced to scrap. The last B-29 was retired in 1960. Just one is still flight capable for air shows. 3,970 were built. Commercial airliners were derived From the same design.

Linda Ronstadt was born in 1946.

Editor: I own just about every record, that Linda Ronstadt ever made. The man at the record store would phone me, when a new record was out, and I would just go there and buy it, even without listening to it in the store. The last thing I heard was that Linda Ronstadt has Parkinson’s disease, and can’t sing anymore.

From Keith Minton

I have just finished Nevil Shute’s PASTORAL which I found an excellent read. Its key scenes have to be those in the air with Peter Marshall surviving miraculously all the odds to get through. Maybe SUPERMAN would have been a more accurate title, but even Superman had his weakness, and that apart From kryptonite was Lois Lane. Women always get you in the end, I have always felt that.

Of course Nevil Shute had a preoccupation with death, this was inevitable as he saw two terrible wars the Great War when he was in his late teens and served in it as a private soldier, and World War II when he was in his early forties and in which he became a lieutenant in the Navy.

In PASTORAL (1944) an unashamedly romantic novel, death features largely in the frequent air battles, but Gervase, the love object, plays a key role on the ground. Marshall the “ace pilot” falls in love with her, though sadly according to the novel she “shoots him down” and he just goes to pieces, no longer the “ace pilot” he was and this costs him his plane “R for Robert” and almost his life and that of his fellow airmen. They amazingly remain loyal to him, but in the end it is he who leaves them. I have to say this is mainly Shute’s wishful thinking, I do not see any of this happening in real life; certainly the men’s blind loyalty.

But what I think is significant about this novel as others is Shute’s attitude to women. I find his romantic scenes unconvincing, very circumspect by today’s standards, and showing the women as Shute would like them to be not as they are. That is my impression anyway, and you may go ahead and “shoot me down” if you like, I won’t take issue with you there.

But the psychology behind this attitude is significant and is worth having a look at. Gervase in PASTORAL is presented basically as a dangerous force, who repents when she is aware of what damage she is causing. “Shooting down” is not just a metaphorical expression in Shute’s view but a very real one. The girl in rejecting Marshall’s proposal of marriage, if only for the best of motives, ie that she may lose him in death anyway, causes him psychological harm she could not dream of, which affects his professional functioning and everything else.

This power is not just a chance part of one novel but recurs in others A TOWN LIKE ALICE (1950) being the most obvious example where Jean Paget is an immense power for good. This power was earlier latent in the almoner Alice MacMahon in RUINED CITY (1938) But Shute is able also to see the darker side of women and this emerges in one of his best novels, the autumnal REQIUEM FOR A WREN (1955) where the suicide of the Wren Janet Prentice is a self atonement for the accidental destruction in war by the girl of a number of innocent male lives.

PASTORAL is an excellent if underrated novel. It touches not only on the danger of war and the courage of those involved in it, but in wider issues like the position of women in the world. I think he would be delighted with what they have achieved today, and it is no small tribute to Shute he foresaw that emergence in his own still blinkered time.

From Mike Blamey

Your piece about the "I told you so" comment From the Engineers involved in specifying the insulators on power distribution cables in OZ reminded me of a similar situation. One of my clients for many years was Polycarbon Inc. [Manufacturers of the fabrics -carbonized viscose I assisted in redesigning the specification for the base fabric, as the original twisted in the ovens- used to make the nozzles on the boosters of the Space Shuttle.] Their customer was Morton Thiocol in the USA: whose Engineers warned NASA several times that trying to take-off when it was cold (so that the O ring seals between parts of the casing were brittle) would result in disaster. NASA (wanting to placate Congress and having invited a raft of politicians to watch the launch) over-ruled them. Sadly it did for Challenger. The Engineers involved ? One committed suicide, and the others never really functioned again.

I used to repeat to my Engineering students a comment From my own Prof at St Andrews 40 years before !

"If you attempt to break any of Nature's Laws, both detection and punishment will be immediate !""

When will they ever learn ?

Never !

From John Anderson


The bus garage on Piccadilly, York has been derelict for many years and it has long been the ambition of Ian Reed, Director of the Yorkshire Air Museum, to acquire the building and turn it into a visitor attraction. Now, in partnership with a property development company, they have put in a bid to buy the site From the owners, York City Council. If successful they plan to turn part of the building into "Airspeed 1930's Experience" which would incorporate a 1930s aircraft and would commemorate York’s links with Nevil Shute Norway. It would also acknowledge pioneering aviators Amy Johnson and Sir Alan Cobham, who were among Shute’s partners in the project.

This is exciting news and we certainly hope their bid will be successful. If it is, the Foundation will do all it can to help the project, as we did with their "Pioneers in Aviation" exhibition at Elvington which opened in 2010. For more details on the plan, and Ian's press interview, follow this link:

From John W. Cooper

Star Characters, Spun Anew, May Live Well More Than Twice

James Bond, Jeeves and Philip Marlowe Return in New Books

"Also these days — whether by design or by that strange alchemic process by which publishers all do the same thing at the same time — a number of sequels, homages and retellings of tales From long-dead authors are suddenly crowding the shelves."

Is it time for Nevil Shute’s characters Henry Warren, Tom Cutter, David "Nigger" Anderson, Theodore Honey and many others to "Live Well More Than Twice" ??

While the possibilities for sequels are endless, I can fantasize a few:

I hope the mysticism, spirituality, and time-warp themes present in many Shute novels continues to be explored.

Why should Shute’s characters live on:

In these stressful times, readers are hungry for positive literary works that tell how ordinary men and women do extraordinary things.

Joseph Conrad wrote "My task, which I am trying to achieve is, by the power of the written word, to make you hear, to make you feel--it is, before all, to make you see." Nevil, too, also made us see.

The reading of characters doing new things will inspire the reader to go back and read his novels to find out how they were developed.

Who might the potential author (s) be ? Whoever they are, there is a plethora of information on Shute characters in his novels, autobiography, biographies by Jullian Smith and John Anderson, official papers, information in the Nevil Shute Foundation Web site and the Monthly News Letters.


Some very interesting things this month

From the Netherlands, where it is really autumn now, see you all next month