An English aeronautical engineer, Nevil Shute Norway wrote his novels under the name Nevil Shute. Fascinated by aircraft from his childhood days, Shute studied at the Royal Military Academy with the intention of joining the Royal Flying Corps. Due to a stammer, Shute failed his medical examination and returned to civilian life. He continued his studies in engineering at Oxford University and subsequently worked for the de Havilland Aircraft Company and the Airship Guarantee Company. In 1931 he founded his own aircraft construction firm, Airspeed Ltd. In World War II, Shute joined the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve where he rose to the rank of Lieutenant Commander working in the Miscellaneous Weapons Department.
Having spent many years devoting time to writing short stories and novels, although having them generally rejected by publishers, Shute decided in the late 1930s to attempt to live by his writing. Most of Shute's published work draws heavily on his personal life. His war experience contributed strongly to Pied Piper, Most Secret and Pastoral and his post-war time in Burma was incorporated into The Chequer Board. In 1948-1949 Shute flew to Australia, in his own plane, to seek inspiration for further novels. This journey provided the material that was shaped into A Town Like Alice and Round the Bend.
In 1950 Shute moved with his family to Australia, settling on the Mornington Peninsula, Melbourne. He continued to write in the final decade of his life, producing another seven novels in this period. Most of these reflected some aspect of life in Australia. The best known of his works from this era is On the Beach (1957) in which Shute addressed the possibility of a nuclear holocaust.
Shute's success as a novelist 'lay in the skill with which he combined loving familiarity with technicalities and a straightforward sense of human relationships and values ... His natural gift for creating briskly moving plot did not extend to the delineation of character in anything more than conventional terms ... Although he lived in the James Bond era, he never made the slightest concessions to the fast growing appetite in the mass fiction market for sadism and violence' (Dictionary of National Biography 1951-1960 (1971)). In addition to his twenty-four novels, Shute also published his autobiography Slide Rule: The Autobiography of an Engineer (1954).
(Sources: The Oxford Companion to Australian Literature, 2nd ed. (1994) and Dictionary of National Biography 1951-1960 (1971).)