Nevil Shute Norway Foundation

Newsletter dated September 2013

Letters to the Editor

From Cedric

In answer to Claus Nybroe’s request for novels “like” Nevil Shute, it depends upon what you mean.

It seemed like alternating novels were futuristic in nature. Most of them had good technical understanding, usually with aviation in the story.

They were somewhat naïve about the rough edges of history and society, or undercurrents of questioning the received British values of hierarchy and tradition above all.

The characters were almost always humble, honest, honorable, duty-bound, and quiet heroes. Making you feel that they were ordinary people rising to the occasion as needed. For example, you would never think that a British lawyer would profiteer from a young heiress after reading “The Legacy”. After reading “On the Beach”, you’d forget that there must have been terrific bloodshed on the beach as throngs of refugees came ashore to elbow-in for a few more months in Australia. No, the uncomfortable and distasteful are practically eliminated from his writing.

I guess it is the calm and soothing read that he provides. But anyway???

Disregarding the above, I suggest Clare Francis who comes to mind.

I read a couple of the early ones and at the time was quite impressed.

I don’t know how things have continued after 1987, but apparently successfully.

Some random notes:

The latter title reminds me of “Unbroken” which has become a year-after-year best seller.

I also remember books Frommy Grandfather’s shelves by Harold Bell Wright

And perhaps the most famous “English” writer of the early 20th century might be Joseph Conrad

I am just about finished with Ford Madox Ford’s “Parades End” novels. Very difficult to read unless you are very familiar with the British social pecking order and great personal reserve in 1914, -- it might even seem strange. Life seemed to be a fiction, and everyone acted it out in fear of someone noticing the “new clothes”. “When everyone around you makes no sense, it only makes good sense for you to make no sense yourself.”

I thought it was a good parallel to the “Downton Abbey” TV series. Although there is an order of magnitude difference in the social standing and wealth of a noble family and a mere civil servant who was the second son of a wealthy land owner. Nevertheless, the considerations of class still rule. After all, he was an officer, quite a distance above conscripted cannon-fodder, especially those Fromthe Commonwealth.

There have been some recent remembrances of “Dr. Zhivago” and its place in the Cold War. I remember reading it as a youth. But mostly, I remember the film. I suppose it could be “Shute-like”.

The recent movie, “The Monuments Men”, had something to it that was vaguely Shutian. (The drafting of civilian art experts to go into the battlefront to save captured paintings.)

Everyone should read “The Moon is Down” by Steinbeck.

Well, I hope I don’t sound incoherent. There are too many very important authors and books to even touch on in a life-time. Who can presume to direct others towards any in particular ?

From Tony Woodward

I replied to Claus privately at length, but the gist of it was no - I can’t recommend anyone else and I am not sure that even Shute fans realise just how unique he was in his time. I can’t think of anyone else.

I mentioned C. S. Forester whom I reread constantly, and Robert Goddard among contemporary authors, but neither of these are in the same genre – quiet stories of human achievement and local improvement of the world. I know of no other author who achieved this and I too, along with Claus Nybroe, would love to hear of a new author to read. But I don’t think there is one because NSN was unique.

From Cedric

75th Anniversary of Operation Pied Piper can be found at

From Julie Porter twitter: @JulieSPorter

It has been some time since I read any of my Nevil Shute books or written here. The ones I like I have practically memorised, the ones I am not so fond of I tend not to read. As I often do after a major airline incident, I pull out No Highway. We had an old off the air VHS tape of this. It had been some years since I last read it. I like to say I do not forget things. I learn more as the years go by so, I understand some of the scenes better. One thing I noticed this time is that by chance I have some of the same books that Mr Honey did. 1994 seems so long ago now. Something did happen as that is about the time the WEB hypertext markup was implemented at CERN. Change the world it did, but not quite the way NSN imagined. Reminds me of a phrase I once heard. "After the revolution things will be different. Not better, just different."

As I was working out of town I grabbed a couple of other books. In honour of WWI I grabbed Rainbow and the Rose.

It always surprises me how often I come back to Rainbow and the Rose. It is not a particularly nice book. I was reading it about the time of Robin Williams passing. If I have one fault of NSN, is that he tends to use suicide a lot for dramatic tension. Williams called himself Mr. Rainbow. I though that character was in Rainbow and the Rose or the checkerboard. (It is actually in Round the Bend.)

I have always wanted to have an illustrated guide to the planes in NSN's books. For fun I googled Clearget. Then some of the other WWII era terms. I was also able to use google maps, to look up the locations in Tasmania and other places. I happened to visit the Snoopy museum in Santa Rosa where I was working. It is interesting how because of the cartoon dog. Sopwith camels are better known now than they were when the book was written. On the other hand most of the public can not tell the difference Froma tiger or fox moth. If it has two wings it is some sort of WWI airplane.

I had also grabbed "In the Wet," as I was working security for a county racetrack. Sadly unlike some of the other books, this one has not aged well. It was set 30 years in the future, which is now 30 years in my past and 60 years since the book was written. The book remains a good read, and I do have it all but memorised. At least with a speculated date (based on coins.) of happening about 1982 through 1984 it was before personal computing. There was not much Google could help with this book. NSN could not have known about the power of televised campaign adverts, which would render multiple voting worthless. Or the gaming of the system where some gain for fun more power than others do. I can no longer even recommend this book due to the racist and politically incorrect ideas in it about socialism. Ironic in that my dad said he first heard the term television Fromthis title. I guess at the time it seemed prescient.

Given the amount of stuff online, I decided to read Slide Rule, with one hand, and the internet in the other. With steampunk design aesthetic. (which I have been practicing most of my adult life.) there is an interest of those who call themselves Makers or Hakers to want to have a zeppelin in the garage. This movement is best described as Alice in wonderland meets Jules Verne. Barnes Wallis is one of the gods of this movement. It was interesting how NSN refers to his boss at Vickers, by initials. Like some forgotten person of the past. I gather Fromonline references between these two geniuses of aviation there was no love lost. Wallis of course lived almost 100 years and had great influence even on the space program. If readers have not seen the film called the Dish, about the Apollo moon telecast FromAustralia, it is well worth it.

I was disappointed that NSN did not mention Amy Johnson. In googling her, it seems that she may have been carrying a spy, which was classified at the time. I purchased my first computer Froma surplus store at the Oakland airport, where Emilia Erhart, flew, so have been a bit interested in women in aviation. NSN was much of his time and comes across a bit on the misogynistic side. I am sorry Tom Cutter did Mary Nadenza in my book. And Arijan Singh-- Madé. This after all the books were published and re-read by the participants. It was Connie's wish after all.

I was not going to read Round the Bend again. In wanting to know what a proctor looked like (I had pictured a boring Cessna over wing civil in my mind.) I found that there are archives of flight magazine Fromthe 1930s online. Most of the Wikipedia entries reference this. Finally I can see pictures of the airplanes NSN wrote about.

There is something about design that does not date. In 1951 there was an incredible multi-page article about the history of Airspeed.This to announce the new passenger aircraft the Ambassador. (probably more of the model Fromthe reindeer if anything. What an ugly plane) Of course NSN was longer involved. One can see the more corpretizing of the company before DeHavillid took it back. It is too bad in this messed up world of intellectual property, that illustrated editions of the NSN books can not be done. What happened to life +50? These should be available to anyone now. (He would be the same age as Walt Disney) The drawing of the air circus and the Ferry (One can not get it right every time.) is perfect.

The model aircraft forums are also incredible. Students of the Spanish civil war and the Envoy's an Viceroy planes are amazing. The gliders were incredible. I had always pictured these to look like WWI biplane aircraft. Instead they look like early WWII fighter planes. Hard to believe that these are wood and cloth machines. I want one, even if it is a non flying model. Seems like there are a lot of modellers out there who want them too. Now with 3D printing and the net, it is so much easier than it ever was. Not that I have the time or space. (I collect merry go round fairgounds organs.)

I guess that it should not surprise me that Tom Cutter aviation exists in second life, and or other alternative reality sites. I am not sure what they were using for the Cornell Carrier, I think the Fairchild Packet is the best candidate. This along with the Bristol freghter and Miles Areovan do seem to have a chance at winning awards for worlds ugliest aircraft. I had always imagined these too look like the Boeing airplanes. I would imagine that NSN did subscribe to Flight magazine and see these images Fromthe advertisements of the time.

Keith Stewart should be the demigod of the maker movement. There was an honest to goodness Steam Traction engine at the Maker Faire this year (130,000 in attendance.) I had not realised that his model engines like the hornet were aero engines. Now one can go to wikipedia and get animated Gifs of the stroke cycle. (Connie Shaklin, would approve of that.)

I went out to the non newsletter sites on the foundation pages as I though some of the pages FromIncident at Eucla were in the archives here. Perhaps it was just the summaries I read. Was surprised that suicide was still a theme. I had thought this was more about creating a sort of perfect person by computer. What is weird is that you can review this on Amazon.

This got a bit long. I have not been in the position (being too young at 54) to travel to the meetups. Most of my younger contemporaries do not seem to have found the passion to create NSN forums and fight the spambots like the do for doctor who and steampunk stuff. I have not looked into the google groups to see if there is any activity there. There is not enough time in this lifetime to join Facebook for me.


Back Froma wonderful weekend in the UK. The weather was good, and so were the speakers. Saterday morning started with excellent talks by David Henshall and Laura Schneider. On the saturday afternoon we first went to our regular pub, The Ship Inn for lunch. (We were there too during the 2003 gathering.) After that we went to Pond Head House, where Shute lived From1940 until 1950. Than a visit to Combined Operations Pilotage Parties Memorial 1941-1950, and finally we went to Warsash, on the Hamble river, opposite Hamble.

In the evening we had a lovely dinner, at the hotel, with an excellent after dinner speech, by John Anderson the text of which follows:

Ladies & Gentlemen
As I look around the room this evening and indeed throughout the weekend I can see many advanced cases of Shute-itis. It is a severe malady for which, in certain cases, there is no known cure. Let me explain.
Shute-itis, or NEVILIUS SHUTE-OPHILIA to give it its proper medical name, is an invidious affliction. In advances cases it causes an insane desire to travel halfway round the world to meet and discuss symptoms with fellow sufferers. Relief may be obtained at these gatherings, but, I should warn you, it is only temporary and the illogical desire to do it all again will return within 2 years and, sometimes, more frequently than that.
The problem is that the affliction begins in such an innocent fashion. Take my own case. There I was some years ago, believing that I was probably the only person left who really appreciated the writings of this author who had been dead for many years. Sound familiar? Then, via the internet, I discovered the Foundation website and the newsletter gave me my monthly “fix”. This is the mild stage and is curable by getting out more, reading more widely and taking up new interests. No, the really dangerous phase begins when you are overcome by the desire to meet other Shutists face to face because their enthusiasm is so infectious. They do not wear pointy ears, underpants over their trousers, nor impersonate dead pop stars. They will all appear so normal, so apparently well adjusted, so likeable, friendly and welcoming.
Don’t be fooled! Before you can say Kindling, you’ll be hooked by an Old Captiviy from which there is no highway out and you’ll find yourself between the Rainbow and the Rose in some pastoral far country. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. The power of Shute-itis is most secret. Experts with their slide rules say it’s beyond the black stump to explain. Help may be at hand.
Research into the affliction is being funded by a reclusive trustee from the toolroom on Marazan. Leading expert Stephen Morris says doing the research is a long and lonely road. It’s like putting together pieces on a chequer board although he hopes eventually to develop a blind understanding of the condition. In a recent case study he cites the Incident at Eucla where What happened to the Corbetts was a severe ordeal. He holds out some hope for a cure eventually although he warns there will always be the legacy of after effects and during treatment many feel So disdained and that they are going Round the Bend.
I hope you don’t suffer a fate like the seafarers. When they were washed on the beach by the breaking wave. Like them there will be no pied piper to rescue you.
All I can say is if, like me, you’re severely afflicted, lie back and enjoy it. Who needs a cure ?
Ladies and Gentleman, it is my privilege and pleasure to propose a toast to the man who has brought us all here this evening. Will you please raise your glasses and join with me in a toast to
Thank you.

After this wonderful speech there was a surprise performance by Matthew Sproston, who sang some George Formby songs.

On Sunday morning we (finally) watched Fall Out. After that Alison Jenner informed us about the plans, for next years gathering, which will be held in the UK, in Oxford.

David Dawson-Taylor will soon put a report about this weekend on the website. From David - has been done

From the Netherlands, were summer seems to have ended, see you all next month.