Nevil Shute Norway Foundation

Newsletter September 2018
text only version

Letters to the Editor

FROM Joost Meulenbroek

Meeting in the Netherlands

The next meeting in the Netherlands for Shutists will be held on 14 October next at the Take Off Restaurant at Teuge Airport.

We will be discussing No Highway, or Spel met de Dood, as the Dutch translation is named (Play with the Death).

A new British airliner is flying into certain disaster, high above the icy Atlantic. One of its passengers is a brilliant scientist convinced he knows the fatal flaws in the airframe. His agonising decision will decide the fate of everyone on board the aircraft………

We will meet from 11:00 am and have lunch around noon. After lunch we will discuss the book. Depending on the attendees, the discussion will be in Dutch or English.

The participation to this meeting is free, but for the consumptions that you will have and the lunch.
The address is:
Restaurant Take Off
de Zanden 13
395 PA Teuge
tel: 055-3231542

If you want to come to this meeting, please let us know in advance, via email:, or mobile phone: +31 6 54 791 307

FROM Noelle Robson

Meeting in the UK

The next UK Meeting for Shutists will be held on Sat 3 November in Southampton, to discuss A Town Like Alice.

Meet at 10.30 for a tour of the Solent Sky Museum, guided by the manager Steve Alcock who has a good knowledge of Shute and his aviation connections. Will include a cockpit visit to a flying boat. £5 per person.     

Followed by lunch at the Admiral Sir Lucius Curtis, a short walk away in Ocean Village. They will provide an area for us to eat and discuss the book. 
Parking is available £5 for 5 hours behind the pub.
If you wish to attend please let me know before 20 October - or message me on FB via Shutists.

HUGE thanks to new Shutist Geoffrey Wheeler for his advice and assistance.

FROM Bill Levy
Wanted to share this with fellow Shutists:  Recommended reading (or listening):  American historian David McCullough’s 1991 book of essays on famous personalities, “Brave Companions.”  There is a chapter titled “Long Distance Vision” which discusses the lives and writings of several author-aviators including Nevil Shute Norway.  Although the focus is on Charles Lindberg, Beryl Markham, and  Antoine de Saint Exupery,  Shute is mentioned serval times and there is an interesting discussion of why these pilots wrote.

Oh crikey! I never thought it would come to this! Is no-one interested in Nevil Shute any more?  I suppose younger people won’t be, because they have other things to think about now. And many of the things that Nevil wrote about have become reality, or have been sorted out by science as a negative. But I love his style of writing, and that is one thing that will not go away!
I am also a fan of John Windham, and his books have gone the same way…except’ Day of the Triffids’ which is always done in a bad way, and not like the book which explains more…

From Nick Trefethen

Dear Mr. Kwiatkowski, 
I am fascinated with your posting in the August 2018 NSN newsletter and wish you good luck with your project to study Shute's oeuvre-
Like you, I got hooked on Shute at an impressionable age.  Years later, I find myself a fellow of Balliol (Shute's college at Oxford) and married to another academic, in English literature.  Both of these connections are rather gloomy from a Shute perspective -- and fascinating from a sociological perspective.
The fact is, most Balliol fellows aren't much interested in Shute; he barely registers compared with, say, Robert Browning or Graham Greene. And the fact is, most English literature scholars aren't interested in him either, though they write books in their hundreds about, say, Virginia Woolf or James Joyce.  There's a terrifyingly strong sense of what is in the canon and what is not, and Shute is nowhere near.
There are many things going on here, and I wouldn't pretend that Shute stretched literature in the same ways as Woolf or Joyce.  On the other hand, he said far more about the twentieth century, and his near-total invisibility in intellectual circles nowadays is extraordinary.  It's clear that fashion has a lot to do with attention,and one day, who knows, Shute studies may come to life.  Perhaps you will play a part in that.

From Eunice Shanahan
Re the item on Mary Ellis  in the August issue of the Newsletter.
What a co-incidence,  we just watched a programme about 100 years of the RAF with brothers Colin and Ewan who are/have been connected with the RAF, and they had a segment on these ladies and showed Mary Ellis, who was still as bright and perky as ever at age 100 when the programme was filmed, sadly the other lady with her Joy Lofthouse died at aged 97 before the programme was broadcast.  One of these delivered 1000 planes herself, and they did a marvellous job.  It was interesting that they mentioned that these ladies were the first to have equal pay!

From J.B. Robert
As I approach the end of my years on earth, I decided to re-read all of the Nevil Shute novels slowly and in chronological order. I'm doing it on a Kindle which makes it very easy because, as the eyes get weaker, you can adjust the font size accordingly. It goes without saying that the more you read Shute, the more examples of his craft come to the surface. Let's say that Shute is talking about a town or city with which you have absolutely no knowledge because you have never been there. At the end of a few pages, things begin to look and sound familiar and you wonder if you had been there at one time or another, perhaps just passing through on your way to some other destination. By the end of the chapter, you have lived there all your life and are totally familiar with the people, their habits, the food, the government, the religion, the houses, the vegetation, the animals and everything else. And you learned it totally painlessly.

FROM John Anderson

An Engineer's Storyteller
Nevil Shute's engineering background pervades very many of his books. Here is one example from Most Secret. Charles Simon gets back to England after his mission in France to glean information on the U boat pens at Lorient. Major Norman asks him to describe what he has seen and gives him a notebook and pencil.
Another author might have had Charles doing some sketches and giving a long verbal description, but not Shute -
Charles says he cannot do it that way and asks for a drawing board, T square and tracing paper. As he says "In twenty-four hours you shall have proper working drawings of the thing that any engineer can understand" He unburdens his memory putting down on paper all that he saw and memorised. When he has finished he asks anxiously if this work is good enough to get him a commission in the Royal Engineers, and it is.

FROM Art Cornell

Review of Thorn’s Shute Book
I have just finished reading Richard Thorn’s book Shute, the Prince of Story Tellers. As a longtime fan of Nevil Shute having read all of his books, as the founder of the Nevil Shute Society with three Chapters, as an attendee of most of the Nevil Shute Foundation Gatherings, I still learned a lot more about Shute.

Richard Thorn has written a detailed biography of Nevil Shute Norway that is excellently, chronologically put together from beginning to end. He writes about his childhood and his education some of which I had not learned before. I did not know that he was engaged to be married when he was in college. And I was surprised to learn that the woman eventually turned him down. Later, when he was working as an engineer, he fell in love with another woman and she also turned him down -- twice. Now wonder his main character in Lonely Road, written shortly after, had also been turned down many times for marriage, like the author.

Thorn writes in great detail about his entire life. He emphases Shute’s travels gathering information needed to write his next book. Many of Shute’s books were made into movies and Thorn showed how, most of the time, he complained about the films; that they did not accurately depict his books – especially On the Beach.

Thorn also wrote extensively about Shute’s book reviews and how many reviews were not good. And then the readers ignored the reviews buying his books by the hundreds of thousands.

One criticism I have is that he did not quote Linus Pauling, the Nobel Laurette, who said with regard to On the Beach that Nevil Shute had saved the world – soon after the book was published the anti-nuclear crusade began.  


A nice newsletter this month. I can say that, as you are writing it, not me, I'm just copying and pasting, and doing a little bit of editing. Plenty of copy, please keep that up.

From the Netherlands, where the weather is still lovely, see you all next month.