“A friendly, nervous, tweedy man . . . with the strong hands of an engineer”
Nevil Shute Norway joined an older brother, Fredrick, in this world on January 17th, 1899 at Ealing, London, England. His father was Arthur Hamilton Norway, a clerk for the General Post Office, and his mother was Mary Louisa Gadsden.
In 1912, A.H. Norway received a promotion to become Secretary of the Post in Ireland, and moved his family to Dublin. Father and son were both caught in the action of Easter Rising in 1916. The younger Norway served as a volunteer stretcher-carrier during the event.
Nevil attended preparatory school in Hammersmith, and was later sent to Lynam's School (the Dragon School), of Oxford, after consistently being truant at Hammersmith in order to spend his days toiling with mechanics and admiring model aircraft and other attractions at science museums. He then continued his education at Shrewsbury School before enrolling in training at the Royal Military Acadamy in Woolworth. After serving as a private in the Suffolk Regiment during World War I, Shute returned to Balliol College, of Oxford to study engineering.
After leaving school in early 1922, Norway saught employment with Havilland Aircraft Company, a business he had worked with unpaid during his later years of university. He soon left Havilland Aircraft for more promissing work with Vickers, Ltd., where he was on a panel of engineers developing airships, including the R100, headed by Sir Barnes Wallis.
To cope with the stress of his job, Norway began writing in his spare time. Both his father and grandmother were published writers, the former of travel books and the latter of childrens books, so Nevil had ink running in his veins. He considered he could do much better than his work on his first two novels, written in 1923 and 1924, and in 1926 began seeking publication for his third effort, Marazan. Because he felt that his colleagues and bosses at Vickers might feel that his writing compromised his commitment to the company, he chose to be published under a truncated version of his name. Thus Nevil Shute Norway began writing under the pen name of Nevil Shute.
In March of 1931, he married Frances Mary Heaton, a 28-year-old medical practitioner at York Hospital. In the same year, Nevil left Vickers to establish his own aircraft developing company, Airspeed, Ltd. Airspeed became a major competitor in the aircraft construction company in Britian at the beginning of World War II. He joined the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve as a sub-luetinent and soon found his way to weapons development. He was made department head of the Directorate of Miscellaneous Weapons Development before being deployeed as a news correspondent at the Normandy landings and Burma.
After the war, he retired from his career as an engineer and immigrated to Australia. There, he absorbed the culture and used it as an inspiration in many of his later novels. He penned about a novel a year until his death in Melbourne on January 12th, 1960. He also raced a Jaguar XK140 during a brief stint as a racecar driver in Australia between 1956 and 1958. Sixty-one years of a solid man’s life, it was.
Most of Nevil Shute’s books draw on his personal experiences, using his education and employment as an aircraft engineer, wartime experience or sailing enthusiasm, as backgrounds and settings.
Shute’s books are excellent reads because he has a natural ability to tell a story well. He builds characters brilliantly and has introductions that will grip the eyes and mind from the very beginning. He writes with honest words, and it shines through. Although most of his books are set in the time period in which they were written, many still transcend the generation and time gaps with morals and plots that will hold true and earnest now and for years to come.
From 1923 to his death in 1960, Nevil Shute managed to write almost thirty novels and an autobiography. All are worth a read, but you should clearly read some of them repeatedly.
Stephen Morris (1923, p. 1961)
Pilotage (1924, p. 1961)
So Disdained/The Mysterious Aviator (1928)
Lonely Road (1932)
Ruined City/Kindling (1938)
What Happened to the Corbetts/Ordeal (1939)
An Old Captivity (1940)
Landfall: A Channel Story (1940)
Pied Piper (1942)
Most Secret (1942, p. 1945)
Vinland the Good (1946)
The Chequer Board (1947)
Seafarers (1947, p. 2002)
Flight Log (1948, unpublished)
No Highway (1948)
A Town Like Alice/ The Legacy (1950)
Round the Bend (1951)
The Far Country (1952)
In the Wet (1953)
Slide Rule: The Autobiography of an Engineer (1954)
Requiem for a Wren/ The Breaking Wave (1955)
Beyond the Black Stump (1956)
On the Beach (1957)
The Rainbow and the Rose (1958)
Trustee From the Toolroom (1960)
Slide Rule: The Autobiography of an Engineer, Nevil Shute