Nevil Shute Norway Foundation

Newsletter dated Occtober 2014

Letters to the Editor

From Alison Jenner

News of our next conference:

This will take place in Balliol College, Oxford, during the week Sunday, 30 August - Friday 04 September, 2015. The event will commence with registration and a reception in the Old Common Room. There will be three full days of conference activities based within the college, and two days of excursions, one local to Oxford and the other to the Shuttleworth Collection of historic aircraft and to Bletchley Park, wartime home of the Enigma code breakers. Our banquet will take place in the Great Hall, overlooked by portraits of former college Masters through the ages.

For hard-core Shutists like me, who want to savour the experience to the full, there will be some ensuite rooms available in the College itself, in the comfortable but rather more austere student surroundings our favourite author would have recognised; we have also arranged to have rooms available to book at the nearby Hotel Mercure, just a short walk away on Merton Street. Some of the rooms there overlook the Examination Schools, where Shute would have taken his finals. The College also has a partnership with the Randolph Hotel, where Shute is known to have stayed, and some members may wish to avail themselves of their more luxurious facilities.

Further details will be available shortly, with online booking for the conference itself and links to the accommodation of your choice.

We shall also be seeking conference speakers so those wishing to speak, please let me have a short abstract of your talk for consideration as soon as possible. We have had great speakers at every conference and I am confident that the calibre will be as high next year.

One last point: there is so much to see in and around Oxford and the surrounding region that we strongly advise visitors to consider arriving earlier (or staying later) than the conference week, which will be packed with activity, to be sure of being able to see some amazing sights. There are World Heritage Sites within easy reach of our venue and quintessentially British scenery all around. I always take a second week at an overseas conference to explore and fellow conference members' recommendations invariably make me glad that I do.

Looking forward to a great week next year!

From Charles D

BERLIN - Werner Franz, believed to be the last surviving crew member of the German airship Hindenburg that crashed 77 years ago, has died. He was 92.

Goes to show that history wasn’t that long ago…

From J.B. Robert

"The Shepherd" by Frederick Forsyth is not Shute-like but it is about aviation and I think that Shutists would like it. Very short, very unusual, nicely written.

Again, although not exactly Shute-like, I have always liked Dick Francis because of his characters.

From Malcolm Cole

Lonely Road - the 1936 film now available on DVD

This film has finally become commercially available on a Region 2 DVD collection entitled 'Ealing Rarities Volume 14' . This collection is part of a series of old Ealing Studios films published by a British company called Network. About a couple of years ago they completed a deal with a French Media company called Studio Canal to acquire the publishing rights to their library of about 450 British films which I believe they, in turn, acquired some years before from one of the UK TV stations. Among the 450 was Lonely Road. It is now on the Ealing Rarities Volume 14 set together with 3 other old films. Here is the connection to the Amazon site -

One word of warning though to Shutists across the globe - this issue is a Region 2 DVD so unless you live in Europe you will need a multi region DVD player in order to play this disc.

All we need now is commercial DVD releases of the TV versions of A Town Like Alice and Crossing to Freedom and the film of Pied Piper.

From Eunice

Regarding similar authors, I feel that for me the closest to NSN is Hammond Innes. Not all of his books of course, but Campbell’s Kingdom, The Strode Venturer and Solomon’s Seal. They are all good stories and although he has a similarity of heroes/heroines, the books are not identical, and I find the storylines are credible. Our council libraries do not seem to have any of his books on the shelves, probably too ‘old-hat’ for them now, as they tend to buy the New York Best sellers books, and the shelves have a preponderance of modern authors - the same goes for Dick Francis books, they are stocking the later ones written by him with his son Felix, but the earlier books which were less vicious and with far less bad language have been sent to the stockpile, or sold off as surplus stock.

From Andy Burgess

Nevil Shute UK Book Group

‘Lonely Road Meeting’

1st November 2014

Alveston House Hotel, near Bristol

The next meeting of the UK book group will be on Saturday 1st November 2014 at the Alveston House Hotel [] which is on the A38 to the north of Bristol. The book to be discussed is Lonely Road. The A38 is the road that Stevenson and ‘Sixpence’ would have most probably taken from Gloucester to Bristol on their journey south from Leeds. It seems most likely that Shute also would have travelled this road to visit his parents who were based in the West Country at the time he was in Yorkshire.

The hotel will provide a table for lunch in the restaurant and we can then use their conservatory for our discussion. They expect that it will be reasonably quiet on a Saturday lunchtime, however the conservatory can be partitioned off if necessary.

I propose that we meet at 12:30pm for lunch and we can then retire to the conservatory after. For those interested they also do a tea menu including cream teas. Please see the hotel web site for details.

The hotel has asked that we pre-order lunch and to that end the menu for main meals and sandwiches (if you prefer) is given in a document via the Facebook Shute Group page. If anyone should want a cream tea they have asked that these be pre-ordered as well.

Could you please let me know if you expect to attend on e mail address as soon as possible and if you are coming your lunch requirements by 25th October.

Update: As at 23rd September I only have about 6 people who have said they will/may attend. This is really insufficient for using the hotel and I need to confirm the booking with the hotel in the first week in October. Could those who would like to come and haven’t responded yet please advise me as soon as possible so I can decide on what to do. Thank you.

From Andy Burgess

MacRobertson Air Race 80th Anniversary

October 20th (at 6:30 to be exact) is the 80th anniversary of the start of the MacRobertson England to Australia air race. The first plane off was the DH88 Comer racer “Black Magic” flown by Jim and Amy Mollison (nee Johnson). Amy of course had connections with Airspeed and was a possible model for Brenda Marshall in ‘The Rainbow and the Rose’. The entry also included an Airspeed AS.5 Courier and AS.8 Viceroy (the only one ever produced). The race was won by the DH88 Comet “Grosvenor House” (G-ACSS) piloted by Scott and Campbell-Black. The Courier (G-ACJL, race number 14) completed the course in 9 days 18 hours, which compares with G-ACSS at 70 hours 54 minutes. The Viceroy withdrew with brake trouble at Athens. Jim and Amy Mollison retired with a seized engine at Allahabad after being forced to use low grade fuel when they got lost and landed at an unscheduled airfield. Wonderfully Grosvenor House is flying again after almost 12 years. It took off on August 1st from Old Warden airfield after modifications to the undercarriage that collapsed and led to it staying on the ground for so long. It is likely to be flying at the Shuttleworth Collection’s ‘race day’ on Sunday October 5th. Painted bright red this is a beautiful aircraft in true de Havilland style and as one who saw it flying many years ago I can say it will be the star attraction at the show. Its design and construction led to the Albatross airliner and eventually to the world famous Mosquito multi role aircraft – The Wooden Wonder.

From Tony Woodward

Cedric gave a list of novels. I have heard of Clare Francis – wasn’t she a sailor? I may even have read one of her books once but I may not have liked it. But now I am intrigued and I can’t wait to try some of them again, so I hope they are available on Kindle! Thanks Cedric!

I cannot read Joseph Conrad though. Just as I cannot read William Faulkner the classic American author. Their language is too convoluted for me to get any pleasure out of it.

It’s true Cedric that NSN avoided much of the venal life that real people exhibit – he poked fun at it in the Balkans in Ruined City with the ridiculous umbrella, but I don’t think he ever ascribed these faults to the British, and in that sense he was avoiding reality. And yes he was however unconsciously sowing true English values. They were his values too and this is why those of us who still espouse them love his writing. And after all, let us not forget he was writing fiction. Fiction does not have to follow the real world – and I’m glad it doesn’t. I am reminded of a brilliant skit from the early 1960s satirical show Beyond the Fringe where in an interview the supposed Lord Chamberlain (the prime British censor at the time) said “I go to the theatre be taken out of myself. I don’t want to see lust and incest and rape and sodomy - I can get all that at home” (!) The message being that art and literature is not always about reality but should sometimes be about escape and a safe harbour from reality. And I believe this is why we are loyal to Nevil Shute, because he presented a world where decent human values prevail, one which we might yet have if we don’t lose it though inaction. I think he was consciously presenting that as alternative to the more and more selfish direction that the world was drifting into. Even if he didn’t realize this (I think he just wrote about what he wanted to write about and we should not over analyse him) that is certainly what comes across to me. If only more young people were aware of him.

Julie Porter twitter: @JulieSPorter (sorry I don’t do twitter) stated: "I have one fault of NSN, is that he tends to use suicide a lot for dramatic tension."

I'm really puzzled by this statement. Connie Shaklin in Round the Bend died from leukaemia, not suicide. As far as I remember without checking, John Pascoe in The Rainbow and the Rose died from a fractured skull sustained in a crash. Jackie Turner In The Chequer Board dies belatedly of a wartime brain injury. The solitary clear suicide I can remember is the death of Jessie Proctor in Requiem for a Wren. Perhaps Julie's memory of NSN's opus is coloured by this novel, which is indeed one of his best, certainly burrows into your mind and is one of my top favourites. That is if you can get around the suicide which is so .pointless, misguided and unnecessary. And therefore extremely poignant. Several of the of the characters in On the Beach committed suicide too but that’s science fiction, they were all going to die anyway and there was no other way to end the book. I still don't call that "using suicide a lot". Julie says: "It has been some time since I read any of my Nevil Shute books", and I suggest that she urgently needs to read them all again (and after all that is no hardship!) Please let us know if you find any more suicides!

You might say that Shute used impending death as a constant feature in his novels. Certainly there are several of these. He wrote about life, which encompasses death. He faced life realistically, having grown in an atmosphere of danger (early aviation) and also in war. This may be unpleasant to today’s cocooned society to which death is inconvenient. The Victorians refused to talk about sex, and today we refuse to talk about death, except a devalued and impersonal kind of death in video games or on TV,which devalue the fact that we are all eventually going to die. I confess that I love murder mysteries – Agatha Christie and so on, so I am not altogether immune myself. The most chilling of Shute's novels for me is Most Secret, where Oliver Boden's wife (Marjorie?) is trapped in her bedroom in a bombed building, and a fire starts before the rescuers can reach her. "Oh Ollie, I've let you down" is my most chilling statement in all fiction, if I remember it rightly. This gives me shivers. This colours the entire novel because Oliver then develops a pathological hatred of Germans and who can blame him? How can any of us say how we would react under that stress in time of war? I suspect that NSN met someone who’d had that experience and he included it in Most Secret. This is what novelists do.

Now Most Secret is truly, in Julie's words, "not a particularly nice book". Oddly enough it was the only NSN novel in our house when I was growing up. I read it once - I devoured everything in the house from Don Quixote to my mother's weekly magazines! But it left such a mark that I couldn't read it again objectively for 40 years. But it was a product of its time and it rings true. With that beginning to my NSN experience it comes as a surprise to me that I eventually read all his other books, enjoyed them all and became a complete convert. But then, the cream always rises to the top! I can even read Most Secret now and enjoy it as a product of its time. What Happened to the Corbetts is science fiction but it is still readable even when you know it didn’t happen that way. So is On the Beach. In my opinion OTB is not one of Shute’s best novels, but again it is a product of its time.

I call Julie to task for complaining about In the Wet. That is science fiction too, but OMG the seven vote system would ensure that I don’t have the same number of votes as a serial killer and I am all for that. I figure I would earn about 4 of the 7 votes in In the Wet, which might at least spur me to vote. I always do vote but under our system my vote is and always has been totally useless. I have never lived in a marginal riding, the only ones that have any effect on elections, so I am effectively disenfranchised. But before the multiple vote we have to have proportional representation first and that’s where Canada and the UK (and the US too) are still political dinosaurs. The Irish figured this out at least 60 years ago and I was fascinated listening surreptitiously to their election results as a teenager back in the 1950s on my self-built crystal radio set, guiltily lying in bed when I was supposed to be going to sleep! But clearly Canadians and English aren’t as smart as the Irish because we still haven’t figured it out.

My very first flight was in a Percival Proctor in about 1955 when I was in the air cadets at my English grammar school in the mid-1950s. All I remember proudly is that I wasn’t airsick! All the same, once we touched down I was glad to

From Cedric

A new novel of an Australian held captive by the Japanese. Sounds pretty grim. I don’t think Nevil Shute would have approved.

'The Narrow Road to the Deep North' --- Richard Flanagan

“--- thus Flanagan makes Evans privately conflicted, a womanizer who questions the very possibility of love; a leader who is looked up to by his men, called the Big Fella even, but inwardly tormented by a fear that he is guilty of not having protected and saved more of them. (Of course, he faced only devil’s bargains in the camp, a thousand diseases besetting them from one side and overseers with a supreme grasp of sadism from the other, men dying like flies from lack of food and medicine.) He carries through all his years the suspicion that a brilliant catch in high school rugby might have been the apex of his life.”

From Cedric

I seem to recall such a scene in one of the Shute novels. Might be wrong.

A similar thing happened at the Commonwealth training station in Brandon, Manitoba

From Paul Spoff

This not so much about a little wing crack as it is to the engine disintegration. Ck the cost for the mishap...$135 MILLION!

How much does this baby cost to begin with?


From the Netherlands, where one day it is autumn, and the next summer again. See you all next month