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Lockdown Reading - Nevil Shute Rediscovered

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Mike Woods 105/07/2020 15:48:05
31 forum posts
1 photos

Like most, I found that Covid-19 lockdown freed up a lot of time, which I sometimes struggled to fill. I started to read more and found new subjects, both in fiction and non-fiction to occupy my mind. I remember books I read when I was in my teens and decided to revisit them.

One author that I remember being fond of was Nevil Shute, not because of who he was (I didnt give it much thought at the time), but that his novels were well written and the plots rather engaging. In lockdown, I have started to work my way through his titles again and am glad I have rediscovered this man. 50+ years on with a career in engineering behind me, his books take on a different dimension. I now realise that he was a very capable aeronautical engineer in his own right, working under the likes of Barnes Wallace, before he pursued a writing career.

I made the mistake of starting with "On The Beach", a bit gloomy for current times. The next was "Trustee From The Toolroom", which resonated with the inner engineer from the start. It wasn't that many pages in before names like Myford, Boxford, Herbert and Boley jumped out of the page. The main character could be one of many regular contributors to ME and MEW. The writing style is of a more gentle age, no crash, bang wallop, bed hopping excitement, but very gripping nonetheless. To all of you model engineers out there who have not read his works, if nothing else, try this one as a bit of bedtime reading.

Edited By Mike Woods 1 on 05/07/2020 15:49:48

Zan05/07/2020 15:55:41
165 forum posts
12 photos

The main character was modelled on wesbury. I believe Shute was a model engineer. It’s a great read! Clever and simple plot of an expert excelling and charming whoever he met. ( no spoilers!)

Mike Poole05/07/2020 15:59:08
2615 forum posts
63 photos

Slide rule is his autobiography, quite an interesting story. I think I read most of his books when I was at school but I have re-read Sliderule and Trustee from the Toolroom in recent years. Just rereading Orwell’s 1984, it becomes more prophetic every year.


Jeff Dayman05/07/2020 16:34:23
1830 forum posts
45 photos

"No Highway" and "Most Secret" are also very good, by Mr. Shute. I have my Dad's collection of most of his works and I also like them very much.

Good stories, well written, without the Hollywood style dirt and embellishment.

Rik Shaw05/07/2020 16:58:37
1344 forum posts
364 photos

I am also a fan of Nevil Shute Norway (to give the chap his full name). His style of writing seems to me to evoke the times during which he wrote his novels - very soothing and as Mike remarks, ideal bedtime reading.

I'll put this link here for those that are interested.

I had the pleasure some years ago of being invited to fly in an Airship Industries "windbag" and very exciting it was as we stooged around the Bedfordshire countryside above the Cardington hangars. I still have the certificate presented to me by the pilot authenticating my flight - magic stuff !!


Edited By Rik Shaw on 05/07/2020 17:05:09

Cornish Jack05/07/2020 17:11:50
1138 forum posts
163 photos

Cardington rings two bells for me - Joined the RAF there in '53 and spent a day at a RAFMAA Indoor model meet in the 80s. Everything very impressive ... impressively awful in the '50s and impressive for hangar size and model quality in the '80s.



Ady105/07/2020 17:18:55
3734 forum posts
519 photos

My #1 film, A town like Alice

not done it yet05/07/2020 17:57:20
4739 forum posts
16 photos

I have enjoyed all his novels I have so far read. On The Beach may be a bit over-powering for the squeamish/worriers amongst us but I think that if he were alive today he might be writing a novel on similar lines - while referring to climate change instead of the still ongoing risk of nuclear armageddon.

Currently reading Slide Rule.

old mart05/07/2020 19:27:37
1825 forum posts
148 photos

What about the inspector Bonapart series?

Andrew Evans05/07/2020 19:37:36
321 forum posts
8 photos

He owned an aircraft factory in central York before world war 1. It was demolished a couple of years ago.

David Colwill05/07/2020 20:20:44
640 forum posts
34 photos

I have read all of his books including a couple that were only published after his death. He had an amazing way of describing ordinary events in a way that can really involve you.

My favourite is still "An old captivity"

Thanks for bringing this up, it may be time to dust off a couple of his books.



Andrew Johnston05/07/2020 21:20:27
5553 forum posts
650 photos
Posted by Andrew Evans on 05/07/2020 19:37:36:

He owned an aircraft factory in central York before world war 1.

Seems unlikely since he was born in 1899.

However, he did found Airspeeds in 1931 in York. In 1933 they moved to Portsmouth. My grandfather started working at Airspeeds in the mid 1930s as chief draftsman.


Mike Woods 105/07/2020 22:49:10
31 forum posts
1 photos

Just realised I have committed an engineering cardinal sin in my opening post. I wrongly spelled a great mans name, Barnes Wallis, not Wallace. Oh! the shame of it all. Now where did I put that hair shirt?

Andrew Evans05/07/2020 23:23:14
321 forum posts
8 photos

Sorry yes, he founded Airspeeds in the interwar years. Seems like an odd place to have an aircraft factory, in those days in York the only way to get out by vehicle was through the bar walls or under low rail bridges so access must have been a problem.

Martin Payne06/07/2020 10:41:30
3 forum posts

I read most of them 35-40 years back... the one that sticks out in my mind is 'What Happened To The Corbetts', a strangely prophetic novel of the blitz on Southampton written prewar in 1938!

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