Minutes from meetings in Denver

Colorado Nevil Shute Chapter Minutes – September 19, 2007

Pam and Neal Standard hosted our autumn gathering in their beautiful Black Hawk log home.  Attending were Pat and Stu Wier, Susan Taylor, Donna and David Zucker, Robert Wester, David Rhodes, Babette Hills and Babette’s guest from South Dakota, Susan Batross.  Susan is also the NSN Foundation US Librarian and was personally collecting borrowed books.

Our topic of discussion was Beyond the Black Stump, which received very mixed reviews.  Some of us liked the book and deemed it a good story while it was also considered dull and predictable.  As usual, the technical sequences were admired by some and skimmed by others.  Susan T. noted it was very like the actual 50’s, with references to boring American food, racism, and successful businesses.  We discussed Nevil Shute’s visits to the Pacific Northwest and how accurate we found the language, cars, and other Americanisms.  David R. wondered about the sexual mores that were depicted.  Neal liked the book and its geological descriptions which David, a former petroleum engineer, also liked.


The ending was found to be too convenient by most of us, with all the people disposed of who needed to be.  Stan Laird was generally considered dull, and the women characters had stronger more manipulative roles.  Mrs. Regan was especially influential.  Stu cautioned that we might be over thinking the simple storyline.  Pat very rightfully suggested that THIS book would have benefited from some “dream sequences!”  The lack of a narrator was noted and Babette especially thought there were no extraordinary circumstances which prevented the ordinary characters from doing much of interest.


Show and tell items included Cokes in glass bottles with straws (Babette), American recipes (mostly jello salads) from the 50’s( Susan T.), The Saturday Evening Post from 1957 (Robert’s prize from Alice2007), information about the Humber car (Donna), photos of oil exploration and rigs (David R.), a bottle of cool clear water from “Beyond the Black Stump” (Susan B.), horseshoes, and ice cream (Pam).


Several of us read an optional short story by Henry James, “The Aspern Papers,” that Robert had suggested.  David Z. had the most interesting ideas about the story.  There were a few parallels to some Shute stories. 


Our next meeting – Non-Nevil -  was scheduled for November to be hosted by Susan Taylor.  David R. suggested reading Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner, a Pulitzer winning novel about a mining engineer in the American West.  We also decided that the remaining Shute works were too difficult to borrow so we will start over with Pied Piper in January.


Colorado Nevil Shute Chapter Minutes – May 2007


Christine and Bob Wester hosted one of the most enjoyable Colorado Chapter Meetings so far at their home in Denver, Sunday, May 20, 2007.  The spring weather included sun, clouds, sprinkles and comfortable temperatures but allowed gathering outside for the afternoon.  Attending were Bob’s parent’s Dick and Alice Wester, Art and Joan Cornell, Candace and Lillian Ruiz, Pat and Stu Wier, Neal and Pam Standard, Susan and Brad Taylor, Donna and David Zucker, David Rhodes, Babette Hills and a hello from busy college student Anne Wester.  Susan’s sister Betsy, also a Nevil Shute reader, joined us from Chicago.


The official meeting began with a report on the Alice Springs gathering attended by Bob, Chris and Babette.  Bob’s presentation on Most Secret and the Runagate story were especially of interest.  Chatting continued during our usual delicious pot luck dinner with a break for high school graduation cake.  Congratulations, Lillian!


The book Landfall was thoroughly examined through artifacts, musings, questions and highlights of the major themes in the novel.  Show and tell items were presented by Stu and Pat who brought Bols to drink but was unable to drive his open  roadster due to the weather,  Susan and Brad shared pub ale, Betsy, an Oxford wine, Neal an Avro Anson plane model, as well as list of British WWII subs, Pam a wet, oily hat fresh from a torpedo tube, Joan displayed a bonifide rabbit lamp with glowing red eyes, a wooden shove-penny game lovingly made by Stu and complete with ha’pennies, Stilton cheese and biscuits from Donna and David, and Donna’s English tour book with photos near Beverly.


Donna discussed the “phony war” period portrayed in the book.  There was not yet any rationing, petrol was available, but blackout was established. Stu felt the secret weapon portrayed Landfall was gobbledy-gook.  Dick agreed the “deathray” was total fiction, but mentioned the book was published during the war and therefore could not expose nay privileged information.  The books function as morale lifting and encouragement for the North Americans to join the war effort was explored. 


Further believability issues were considered.  David R. asked if Mona was really as dumb as a hen.  Art wanted to know if shopwork is really considered a “step up” in the world.

Susan felt the move to Canada as a place with fewer class distinctions.  Art mentioned other instances in the book where Shute was not delicate in describing lesser individuals. 


Candace knew right away that the story was all about the sub and that it would turn out to be German.  Stu helped explain the title of the book. Bob touched on several other timely themes including the boredom of war, inter-service rivalry, death by friendly fire, weapons development and dirty tricks.  Babette discussed the 1949 movie and how Jerry’s name was changed to Rick (Jerry Chambers/ chamber pot/ jerry pot.) Several members had viewed a Foundation Library copy of the movie.


The narrator question arose and an amazing anomoly was discovered!  In some editions a footnote is used to explicated part of the story and is signed N.S.  In other editions the entire footnote is a paragraph in the body of the text and not signed.  The first person used in that paragraph makes it seem like a narrator is present!


Art concluded the long discussion with his new chapter website construction.  He will email everyone with the address.  Our next meeting wi ll be in Aurora, Sunday, July 29.  We will read The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards.  Beyond the Black Stump was chosen as the next Nevil Shute title and we will select a date for September.




Colorado Nevil Shute Chapter – January 13, 2007


The January meeting of the Colorado Nevil Shute Chapter was held in single digit weather at the Aurora home of Babette Hills and Wayne Caruolo.  A car shuttle  from the nearby school parking lot was included as the big  December storms were still blocking the street parking.  Members who braved the frigid temperatures were Donna Zucker, Art and Joan Cornell, Dick And Alice Wester, Bob Wester, Susan and Brad Taylor, and Neal Standard.  Wayne arrived home from skiing in time for eats and cleanup.


Our Nevil Shute novel for discussion was Most Secret.  Dick Wester told how he had read it while in the Navy .He was in a NY hospital in the 40’s and selected it from the visiting book cart.  It remains his favorite Nevil Shute tale.  Others found the story darker and understood why it was censored during the war.  Bob brought copies of a Wall Street Journal article that listed the five best novels about terrorism.  Most Secret was the writers’s number two choice.


We enjoyed tiny sips of Pernod as a show and tell item, along with Dick’s picture and specs of an R-boat.  Neal shared books and information of R-boats and S-boats as well as a destroyer like Martin’s.  Susan had a French cookbook with a photograph of a French fishing vessel like those from Douarnaney.  There was additional discussion of the other French locales like the U-boat bunkers at Loreint with spotting on maps of France.


Joan asked about the use of fire and flame throwers as horrible weapons.  The religious aspects were pointed out and the history of fire in warfare including the American Civil War.


Colvin was selected as the most interesting character and his Cape Cod rum running connection was mentioned.


Our next meeting will be at Dick and Alice Westers’ in March.  The Civil War novel Killer Angels by Michael Shaara was chosen to discuss.  Our next Nevil Shute book will be Landfall, with a meeting in late May before Art and Joan return to Cape Cod. 



Colorado Nevil Shute Chapter Minutes – August 19 2006

Susan Taylor hosted the August 2006 Colorado Nevil Shute Chapter meeting at her home in Aurora.  Husband Brad was an interested helper.  Attending were Susan Batross from South Dakota visiting Babette Hills for the weekend.  Other members included Pam and Neal Standard, David and Donna Zucker, Dick and Alice Wester, Candace and Lillian Ruiz, Pat, Stu and Sally Wier, and David Rhodes. 


What Happened to the Corbetts/Ordeal was our topic of discussion.  Artifacts on display were an old copy of the The Tale of Peter Rabbit shared by Donna, books and photos of WWII aircraft and naval vessels like the Victorious, history instruction by Neal, Babette’s hankerchief, Stu’s diagrams, books, designs of channel yachts and 28”small sail boats with cabins, and even a home movie of a lovely day sail off Maine.  Susan B. showed a cigarette pack and Susan T. had the gin.  Pat provided the requisite tinned milk.


Analysis of the book mentioned the predictions Shute got right like the Blitz and bombings in England.  Several examples were given of events that did not come to pass.


Pam got us started on the ethics of the milk holdup.  This is an important point in the novel.  Everyone felt that things started going right for  the Corbett family especially after they helped the fliers out of the drink.


Many other interesting books, movies and titles were shared.  Our next get together will be in October in Boulder at the Wiers’.  The Virginian was chosen as our non-Nevil book to read.  The next Shute novel will be Most Secret in January.



Colorado Nevil Shute Chapter Minutes – November 2005


The Colorado Nevil Shute Chapter welcomed two new members at the November 13, 2005 meeting held at the Denver home of Bob and Christine Wester.  Susan Taylor discovered Nevil Shute books on vacation as a teenager and Donna Zucker enjoyed the TV series of “A Town Like Alice.”  Also attending were Dick and Alice Wester, Pam and Neal Standard, Stu and Pat Wier, and Babette Hills.


The wonderful conference on Cape Cod in October was lovingly described by the lucky members who attended.  Programs, photos and tote bags were shared.  The PowerPoint presentations by members Bob Wester and Lillian Ruiz were highly praised.


Discussion of Ruined City/Kindling was enhanced by Donna’s experiences living in England for seven years.  She was able to help us understand the geography and monetary terms mentioned in the novel.  Donna even had English money to show us examples.  Her maps of the Great North Road that Henry Warren traveled were matched by Stu’s whose were from a 1930’s British travel guide that he happened to have in his basement. Stu thinks the town of Blythe may be a real model for Sharples.  He uses the guide when reading old British mysteries.  Neal had an Osprey book with information and photos of the Battle of Jutland, where, as everyone knows, there were seven Barlow destroyers.  Babette brought work gloves needed by the workers at the new shipyard.  Pam had Worchestershire sauce useful as a financial bribe.  Stu also had an old ship building manual for anyone so inclined to start up a shipyard.  Alice and Dick had ouzo and champagne corks from previous Baltic financial dealings.


We decided the theme of the book was the morality of job creation and the ethics of work.  Pam liked this part of the story best.  Neal found some of the financial details difficult to follow.  Stu liked the banking and world finance portions.  Susan, a Realtor, actually enjoyed Shute’s financial memoirs in Slide Rule.   Alice mentioned that Henry Warren was a serious workaholic to the point of illness.  Dick noticed this is one of the few Shute books with no kind of a narrator.  Several readers thought Warren’s prison experiences were way too positive and not very realistic.


Bob remarked that Kindling is one his favorite NS novels.  He finds it has an enjoyable fairy tale quality.  He asked about the changes Warren undergoes in the story.  Stu felt that Warren was not one of the ordinary NS people as in later books, but more privileged.  Alice liked the beginning and the end the best.  Henry Warren needed and found a purpose in life.


The January meeting was set to be held at Art and Joan Cornells’ after their return from Cape Cod.  Alice recommended a light Graham Greene novel, Travels with My Aunt.



Colorado Nevil Shute Chapter Meeting Minutes – June 2005


Pam and Neal Standard hosted the June meeting at their beautiful mountain home in Black Hawk on Saturday, June 25.  Neal gave a history tour to a lucky few whom were able to arrive early.  He is a volunteer in the Gilpin County Historical Society.  Neal and Pam gave tours of their respective hobbies at their home, as well.  Neal is a modeler and has hundreds of models in his garage workshop, some yet to be built.  Pam is a quilter and has many lovely pieces on display.


Attending this month were Dick and Alice Wester, Bob Wester, Stu and Pat Wier, Candace and Lillian Ruiz, David Rhodes and Babette Hills.  A special guest, Larry Dittmer, flew himself from Illinois in his Cessna 182, and was escorted by his daughter Becky who lives in the Denver area.  Larry had emailed Babette several times trying to find time to attend one of our meetings.


We enjoyed our usual delicious potluck appetizers, meal and desserts while discussing Requiem for a Wren, in honor of the play at Exbury that month.  Nearly everyone agreed that RFAW is one of Shute’s better stories.  Babette passed around the ranking from the website. Pam felt that Alan’s drinking and other parts were very human.  Larry felt there were good snippets but it is not one of the books he wants to reread.  Babette agreed it is depressing and not a feel good book.  Bob mentioned the story within a story.  Candace thought it would be more about Australia.


Larry remarked that NS is a good storyteller, not overly literary but often a source of wisdom in touching vignettes.  David wondered about Viola Dawson.  Does she marry Alan when she is clearly his second choice?  Babette asked if this book has a happy ending, as most of NS do.  Neal really liked the history, psychology and messages that life goes on and to have faith in the future.  Pat enjoyed the story of the  day to day lives of getting ready for D-Day.


Candace and Pam remarked that Janet thought the WRENS and war years were the best years of her life.  She was unable to move on.  Dick said she believed that God is a just God.  Pament was due. Pam pointed out that the war provided many new opportunities for women.


Show and tell included Neal’s teeny 1:72 model of a Swedish Bofurs anti-aircraft gun.  He also had a Tempest/Typhoon model plane and a JU188 model.  Candace brought three aspirin which Janet had need to resort to.  Pam looked up what “megrums” were = nervous fits (p.150).  Babette had photos of HMS Mastadon, the stone frigate.


More discussion followed about the powerful emotions the story evokes.  Pat mentioned that Janet felt enormous guilt about shooting down the JU188 and there was no one for her to talk to.  Neal brought up the many vets that had trouble coping with peace.  Many more were the Greatest Generation and were able to move on.  Pat thought that certain personalities like frontiersmen often had skills that were needed in wartime but they did not fit in after returning.


Larry reminded us that Janet’s character has a happier life after the war in The Seafarer’s.   Bob explained the other attempts NS had made with this storyline.  Bob asked if the book had a message.  Neal thought that one lesson is to survive tragedies in life you need to talk and communicate. Bob found the very real settings and factual information in the book worthwhile.  Larry agreed that NS is an honest reporter using a straight-forward style.


Lillian mentioned a few literary devices in the book.  NS uses quite a bit of repetition to make some points.


The next Non-Shtute meeting will be at David’s in August.  He suggested Thread of Grace by Mary Doria Russell.  We will read Kindling for the Shute meeting to be held after CC2005.




Colorado Nevil Shute Chapter Meeting Minutes – January 15, 2005


Art and Joan Cornell hosted the January meeting of the Colorado Nevil Shute Chapter in Littleton , Saturday, January 15.  Regular members attending included Candace Ruiz, Dick and Alice Wester, Robert Wester, Pam and Neal Standard, David Rhodes and Babette Hills.  We were joined by a special guest from England, Mark Gallagher, husband of UK2003 conference organizer Steph Gallagher.  Mark was in the area on business but made a special effort to meet us.


Our main topic of discussion was In the Wet with dinner contributions from the book including Aussie wine, and “remote”  veggies by Dick and Alice, “pheasant” casserole, tomato juice, almonds  and the book cover poster by Art and Joan,  David’s vegetable soup, Candace’s pineapple upside down cake, another pineapple from Pam, information about the De Havilland Comet airplane by Neal, fruit salad and a hurricane lamp from Babette.  Mark helped out by translating some British terminology like a “Grace and Favour” house.


Art pitched Cape Cod 2005 which he is very busy organizing.  Bob and Lillian will be presenters.  Babette will mediate a panel discussion.  The chapter is sponsoring a contest.  Candace is organizing this activity.


Our next gathering was set for April hosted by Bob Wester.  We will discuss Wings of Morning by Thomas Childers.  Requiem for a Wren was chosen for the next Nevil Shute meeting.  The Standards invited us to tour Gilpin Co. Historical Society before meeting at their home in June.


Further discussion of In the Wet followed with Art touching on the “future telling” used by Shute to warn England of various political issues.  Reincarnation was a vehicle for story telling.  Dick and Neal were both very interested in the multiple votes idea and felt that NS had this as the purpose of the book.  Mark mentioned some instances from British history where everyone’s vote was not the same.


Bob pointed out the narrator, story-within-a-story technique popular with NS.  Joan asked about the symbolism of the animals watching the house.  Other religious symbols were noted.  Pam felt the bomb on the plane was an accurate prediction of later events but population predictions for England and Australia were wrong.


Bob asked if the book had a message.  The political warnings were reiterated, as well as the multiple vote idea.  Dangers of prejudices and elitism also served as thought provoking.  The dream sequences as storytelling technique were enjoyed by some and considered well done.