Read Slide Rule by Nevil Shute Online


Nevil Shute best describes this autobiography in his own words: "Most of my adult life, perhaps all the worthwhile part of it, has been spent messing about with airplanes. For 30 years there was a period when airplanes would fly when you wanted them to, but there were still fresh things to be learned on every flight, a period when airplanes were small and so easily built tNevil Shute best describes this autobiography in his own words: "Most of my adult life, perhaps all the worthwhile part of it, has been spent messing about with airplanes. For 30 years there was a period when airplanes would fly when you wanted them to, but there were still fresh things to be learned on every flight, a period when airplanes were small and so easily built that experiments were cheap and new designs could fly within six months of the first glimmer in the mind of the designer."That halcyon period started about 1910 and it was in full flower after WW I when I was a young man; it died with WW II when airplanes had grown too costly and too complicated for individuals to build or even to operate. I count myself lucky that that fleeting period coincided with my youth and my young manhood, and that I had a part in it."...

Title : Slide Rule
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9781842322918
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 171 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Slide Rule Reviews

  • Stephen
    2019-01-20 19:29

    Detailed book into the authors life designing planes and airships but sadly wasnt my cup of tea

  • Nicholas Whyte
    2019-01-20 22:41[return][return]It's a book in three parts: the first couple of chapters describe Shute's boyhood and youth, where the most exciting part is his close observation of the Easter Rising of 1916 - his father, as it happens, was the Secretary of the Irish Post Office, so there is a certain immediacy to Shute's account, from an angle one doesn't often get - that of a middle-class English teenager pressed into service as a stretcher-bearer.[return][return]Then a bit over half the book is devoted to a fascinating account of Shute's involvement with the R100, the private sector counterpart to the doomed state-funded R101 British airship. This was at the cutting edge of technology, a prestige engineering project every bit as important in its way as the moon landings, which was to open up mass travel between the continents at a time when it was thought that aeroplanes would never be able to be big enough or fast enough to satisfy the commercial demand. Shute clearly loved his own creation (he was deputy to Barnes Wallis but ended up de facto in charge) and goes into fascinating detail about the problems they faced, both technical and political; and looming over the narrative, of course, is the eventual R101 disaster, which he blames on the failings of senior civil servants as technical managers and on the general policy of having any state-run industry (and specifically the ego of Lord Thomson, the Air Minister, who paid for it with his life and the lives of dozens of others).[return][return]The final chunk of the book, a bit over a third of it, is Shute's account of setting up his own aircraft company, and the difficulties of running a hi-tech startup in the context of the Great Depression. Again, an interesting human tale of innovation, struggle against the odds, the difficulties of balancing the books and the personalities, the intimate involvement of people and capital; I think it ought to be required reading for anyone thinking of setting up their own business. On top of that, the looming clouds of war - in Spain, China and Ethiopia, and coming up close to home - were crucial in making the company break even by the time he was eased out with a golden handshake in 1938.[return][return]Shute isn't shy about his politics, which are certainly to the right: I guess that being caught on the wrong side of a revolution at 17, and then seeing your professional colleagues killed by the hubris of a Labour government minister, may well be formative experiences, but he also argues for the retention of the moneyed aristocracy as a source of start-up finance for innovation. I'm not in huge sympathy with him on these points, but I like his clear and occasionally self-deprecating prose; the two books of his that I have read, Pied Piper and Trustee from the Toolroom, are both rather enchanting tales of older men who accidentally go on long journeys to do good deeds, and it's interesting to see where this comes from.

  • Jennifer (JC-S)
    2019-02-10 22:31

    ‘Most of my adult life ... has been spent messing about with aeroplanes.’Slide Rule is Nevil Shute’s autobiography from his childhood until 1940, and was published in 1954. Nevil Shute Norway (1899-1960) is best known to me as Nevil Shute, the author of novels including: ‘No Highway’; ‘A Town Like Alice’; and ‘On the Beach’. He wrote 24 novels –many of which I’ve yet to read – as well as this autobiography. But there’s another side to Nevil Shute Norway: he was involved in the early years of British aviation, including the competition to build a commercial airship between 1924 and 1930.Nevil Shute Norway was educated at Shrewsbury School and Baliol College, Oxford. After a brief period at the Royal Military Academy, he worked for the De Havilland Company from 1920 to 1924. His work in the design and drafting of aircraft led to his being appointed to the Airship Guarantee Company where he rose to be the Chief of Engineering. During this period, there was a competition to build an airship which could be used for regular commercial traffic across the Atlantic. ‘It was generally agreed in 1924 that the aeroplane would never be a very suitable vehicle for carrying passengers across the oceans, and that airships would operate all the long distance routes of the future.’A competition was established, between Vickers Limited (which then established the Aircraft Guarantee Company (AGC) as a subsidiary wholly responsible for the airship construction) and the Air Ministry. Nevil Shute was on the AGC team. The government airship was the R101; the AGC airship was the R100. R100 successfully completed a return trip to Canada in July/August 1930. On the 4th of October 1930, R101 en route to India, crashed killing 48 people. Nevil Shute blames bureaucrats and bad engineers for a series of events which led to the crash. The crash of R101 effectively ended the airship program.After the airship program ended, Nevil Shute formed a venture capital company called Airspeed Limited which built first gliders and then commercial aircraft. Between 1932 and 1938 (when Shute left the company) he describes the challenges of developing a new company in what was then a new industry. It makes for fascinating reading.The book finishes two years after Nevil Shute left Airspeed Limited, and I wish that he’d written a second volume covering the next period of his life. Now that I’ve read this book, I’m keen to read more of Nevil Shute’s fiction. Many of his novels draw on his experiences in the aviation industry.Jennifer Cameron-Smith

  • Jonathan
    2019-01-28 21:28

    Mr Norway was at the heart of many of the dramatic events of the early 20th Century. Before he gave up to become a renowned novelist he served as a stretcher bearer during the Easter rising, observing the rebels shooting horses from the Dublin Post Office, lost his older brother in the first world war, worked on the successful Airship R100 and travelled to Canada upon it, learned to fly and founded his own aircraft company which was eventually folded into de Havilland.He is good and interesting company, especially before his personal life becomes entirely taken up with the history of Airspeed Ltd.We think today perhaps that technology is advancing apace with the progress of communication technologies, think how much vaster were the changes in transportation in their impact, from Bicycles to motorbikes and cars, from nothing to aircraft.

  • Yvor
    2019-01-25 18:41

    This is an autobiography of Nevil Shute, one of my favorite authors. It focuses on his engineering career in the early aerospace industry in the U.K. Individuals interested in the early history of the airplane (and airship/blimp) manufacturing industry would find this interesting. It touches on the author's career as a writer, but does not go into that aspect of his life in great depth. I would recommend it as a good read only based on very specific interests--engineering, aircraft, aircraft design and manufacture.

  • David
    2019-01-24 23:32

    I started reading this book because of the wrecked dirigible on the cover of my edition. I have always been fascinated with them as a means of transport of heavy materials. I did not know that Mr. Shute was Norwegian nor that he worked on one of the only two English dirigibles. Thus, only the first half of the book did I find really interesting. I was more interested in the specifics of the dirigible than in Mr. Shute.

  • Stuart
    2019-01-25 19:33

    Part one of Shute’s sadly incomplete autobiography, this book tells the story of his early years as an aviation engineer, his love of flying, his incurable writing habit, and his role in Britain’s R-100 dirigible project between the World Wars. An absolutely ripping memoir. Too bad he never finished (or published) part 2, where he did classified work for the Crown during WW2, or (better still) part 3, in which he immigrated to Australia and became a Buddhist.

  • Bert
    2019-02-19 21:54

    What a good book. I'm surprised it hasn't been done as a movie. A look back at when airships were the future of travel.

  • David P
    2019-02-08 19:34

    Let there be no mistake: this is an old book, out of print, the life story of Nevil Shute. If you can find it in a library or on a second-hand book rack, by all means, get it. Nevil Shute was a British writer, and in the year after World War II some of his novels became well-known the world over. Most famous was "On the Beach," an end-of-the-world story set in Australia, after a nuclear holocaust that had destroyed Europe and America, a gloomy book and not Shute's best. "No Highway" tells about a nerdy British scientist ("boffin") who tries desperately to stop the production of a new airliner, having discovered in his lab that metal fatigue might cause its wings to drop off. It proved to be prophetic, because shortly after its appearance, the De Haviland Comet, the world's first jetliner, began losing wings in mid-air for what later turned out to be exactly the same reason. "A Town like Alice," which became a well-known film, is a love story starting in Japanese-occupied Malaya and ending in the Australian outback. And many other gentle, upbeat books--"The Trustee from the Toolroom", "Around the Bend" and over a dozen more, some published before the war. For an appreciable part of his career, this author led a double life. As Nevil Shute Norway (his full name), his main occupation for twenty years was aeronautical engineering, as builder and designer of airplanes and airships. It is no coincidence that airplanes figure prominently in many of his novels! "Slide Rule" tells of that other career, from his early years to the approach of World War II. Two stories form the core of the book. The more vivid one is about the R-100 airship, commissioned by the British government in 1924 as the first of what was hoped would become a fleet of swift airships linking the British empire. The task was given to Vickers which had built airships during WW I. However, before the contract could be signed, the Labor Party took power and decreed that two competing airships would be built, the "capitalist" R-100 and the R-101, designed and constructed by the government itself. The R-100 was entrusted to Barnes Wallis, a gifted and inspired engineer (later, in WW-II, the designer of bombs that destroyed German dams and fortifications, as detailed in "The Dam Busters", book and film). With a small crew (including Shute) and under austere conditions, he designed and built a great airship, within cost and schedule, and flew it in 1930 from England to Montreal and back. Shute was aboard and the book describes that flight, including some harrowing moments above the St. Lawrence River, when (for a few minutes) the R-100 was sucked helplessly upwards by a thunderstorm, the nemesis of airships. The builders of the R-101, meanwhile, enjoyed generous support and much better facilities. But there was a down side, too, because bureaucrats meddled with the specifications, and government managers proved sloppy in the design and all too lax with tests and inspections. The engineers at the bottom of the pyramid (whom Shute occasionally met) had no say, and the schedule was pushed from above even when it became known that a poor choice of materials had weakened the canvas cover of the airship to where parts could be easily torn by hand. The end was a tragedy: an inadequately tested R-101 took off towards India, crossed the English channel and went down in France, with no survivors. That ended Britain's love affair with the airship: the R-100 never flew again but was broken up for scrap. With some partners Shute next formed "Airspeed", dedicated to the production of airplanes. That is the second long story, and readers who speak lightly of "entrepeneurship" can learn here a few lessons. The timing was bad for any new venture, the beginning of the great depression, and Airspeed struggled constantly to make ends meet, to keep creditors at bay, and above all, to find buyers for its airplanes: only in 1938, when Shute left it, did it show its first small profit. Its airplanes were quite good--among other things, they pioneered the folding landing gear--but finding buyers was hard, until the clouds of a new world war began gathering over Ethiopia and Spain, and shady purchasers appeared, ready to pay cash as long as no questions were asked. Then Britain itself began arming and Airspeed could stop worrying about sales; it built bombers during the war and was ultimately swallowed up by its competitor De Haviland. By that time Shute was well into his other career, the one the world knew about. It is a rare individual indeed who can make his mark so well in two so different spheres!

  • Ilya
    2019-02-14 16:52

    Nevil Norway (he wrote under his middle name Shute to keep his writing career and his engineering career apart) was born in 1899 to a senior English civil servant. In a society as unequal as England before World War I, life was nice if you were near the top: his father had 3 servants, a gardener and a gardener's boy, while putting his two sons through private schools. Nevil was interested in flight and engineering from an early age. During World War I, Nevil's older brother was wounded and died of an infection, penicillin not having been invented yet; Nevil failed to get an officer's commission and was drafted as a private; fortunately, the war ended before his unit saw action. After he was discharged from the army, Nevil studied engineering at Oxford (frankly, I did not know that this university has a department of engineering), but was a mediocre student: internships at de Havilland Aircraft Company suited him better. After graduation, Shute spent 5 years doing stress analysis computations for the R100, a Zeppelin-class airship built for travel through the British Empire. At the same time as a private company was building the R100, a government-owned company was building the R101, an airship of the same class with a different design. The two engineering teams were fierce rivals, working in secrecy from each other. Shute says that the R100 was a better design because a private company is accountable to its shareholders, and a government-owned company is not accountable to anybody, but the materials I found on the Internet say that it is unclear, which design was better. The R100 was 720 feet long and had the top speed 81 mph (in contrast, a Boeing 747-400 is 232 feet long and has the top speed 614 mph). In the final acceptance test in 1930, it flew from Cardington, Bedfordshire, to Montreal in a 79-hour flight. The acceptance test for the R101 involved a flight to Karachi; unfortunately, when the airship was over France, it crashed and exploded, killing 48 people. This ended the British airship building program. Afterwards, Shute was a cofounder of a startup aircraft manufacturer, which was not unlike software startups 70 years later: they raised the seed capital by searching for people who have recently sold land and didn't know, what to do with the money; paid highly skilled workers partly in stock; had troubles with creditors. The Great Depression was not the best time to manufacture civil aircraft; what saved the company was the re-militarization of the world in the late 1930s. Both sides of the Spanish Civil War wanted all the aircraft they could get their hands on; the Emperor of Abyssinia wanted something European soldiers of fortune could fly and bomb the Italian fuel depots from; the RAF wanted trainers for its bomber crews. Although the company has grown large, it was still unprofitable; eventually, the board of directors forced Shute out. Writing novels has been Shute's hobby since the airship days, but after one of his novels was filmed in Hollywood, he became a popular writer, so he decided to have a second career as a professional novelist rather than an engineer.

  • JZ Temple
    2019-02-04 16:49

    Most readers are familiar with Nevil Shute, author of numerous novels, many with aviation themes. Few however have probably read this book, his autobiography. Nevil Shute Norway grew up in the early part of the twentieth century, just a bit too young to have participated in World War I. His description of the almost fatalistic approach he took towards becoming a soldier and, he was very sure, dying in the trenches, is very surprising.After the war he drifted into the nascent commercial aviation business. The story is interesting, although if you are not familiar with the firms of the Twenties like Airspeed the book may not be something you could get into. He writes of his life and friends and surprisingly, hardly mentions his writing career. It's a good look into life in the 1920's in Britain.The later part of the book details his involvement with the engineering of the British airship R100, and at this point unless you are pretty much an aviation enthusiast (I am) you might be looking to put down the book for something else, but he does tell the story well, including the development of the government financed and designed R101. This latter airship crashed on it maiden international flight, generating much bad press for airships in general and dooming the R100 which, according to Shute, was a far better designed and built ship. His discussions of the politics of the R101 crash and the grounding and eventual breakup of the R100 are illuminating stuff. Shute ends his story at this point, where he transitioned from engineer to writer. I would recommend this book for fans of his writing, or those who have an interest in aviation history of this period.

  • Bfisher
    2019-01-19 18:40

    Reading this book was a peculiar experience. I was aware of Shute only as a writer, especially of "On the Beach", so I had expected to read the story of a writers life. However, it is the story of Shute's initial career as an aeronautical engineer, initially as a key player in the team building Britain's R100 airship, and then as one of the founders of Airspeed, a player in the British aircraft industry during the evolution from the heroic age of aviation into the beginnings of commercial aviation. Quite readable, despite a few discussions of his rather right-wing views on inherited wealth.

  • Dana Stabenow
    2019-02-18 18:54

    Before he wrote the post-apocalyptic classic On the Beach and the Australian romance A Town like Alice, Shute was an engineer working at the cutting edge of aviation. In Slide Rule, among other things, he tells the story of the British government sponsoring the simultaneous building of two dirigibles, one by private industry and one by government subsidy. The results are exactly what you might expect. A, you should pardon the pun, riveting read.

  • Deb
    2019-02-02 17:36

    Amazing that Nevil Shute was so much prouder of his achievements as an engineer than of the fiction he wrote. A pity this autobiography ends when he is aged 54; I would have liked to know if his ideas changed at all before he died. He certainly believed in private enterprise, and in a rather naive way, but his heart was in the right place.

  • Reader2007
    2019-02-15 23:37

    In the first half of this book, Shute writes of his early life and his family. Then he switches to writing about his business.

  • Lisa
    2019-01-23 16:48

    I read everything I could find by Nevil Shute when I first discovered him, and I really enjoyed his fiction, so it was disappointing to discover that I would not have liked this man one little bit!

  • Converse
    2019-01-21 21:58

    Nevil Shute (1899-1960; full name Nevil Shute Norway) was a popular English novelist in the middle decades of the twentieth century. Slide rule is his memoir of his earlier life, focusing on his adult years when he earned his living as an engineer and a businessman. Shute's father was a high ranking civil servant in the British Post Office. Shute was educated at private schools, and, after a stint in the British army towards the end of the First World War (he saw no action), at Oxford University where he got a third class (I think that means academically unimpressive) degree in engineering. He worked at De Havilands, an aircraft manufactuer, after graduation (I think he had served as unpaid intern to the firm during college vacations earlier) and then went to work on the R100, a British rigid airship. At the time (1920s) one airship in Britain, the R100, was being built as a private venture for government contract, while simultaneously the Air Ministry was building its own airship to comparable specifications, the R101. Shute's duties on the R100 would now be done by a computer; he was in charge of the calculations, a process involving several people, much pencil and paper, and slide rules. While working as an engineer during the day, Shute was writing his first novels in the evenings. Suffice it to say that the R100 flew successfully to Canada while the R101 crashed into a hill in France on its first major trip, which was intended to take it to India. Shute believed that the publicity associated with the government's airship, in conjunction with political considerations, got the builders (a number of the senior engineering staff were on R101 when it went down) in a position that they felt they had to attempt the flight, although by that time they had become aware of certain problems (weighed too much, the construction of the outer cover was unsuitable, etc.) that made it a marginal machine at best. The crash and the Depression (the ships were completed put an end to British government funding of airships, and Shute went on to become one of the founders of an aircraft manufactuering firm, Airspeed. Shute describes the difficulty in raising money (people entrusted with other people's money, like banks and government development programs, won't risk it on a truely entrepeneurial venture), the need to have rich folks with spare cash to fund such risky projects, the need to go greatly into debt to fund such projects, and the need for a small firm that cannot compete with established firms on price to be technically innovative. Despite tribulations, Airspeed was ultimately successful; many of the trainer aircraft used by Britain during the Second World War were based on its designs. By the start of the Second World War Shute had been forced out of the firm, which after he got over the shock was not an unwelcome development as the exciting, pioneering phase was over and his novels (and associated film rights) were starting to pay well. Shute served in a technical capacity in the Royal Navy during the Second World War.

  • Rod
    2019-02-17 15:34

    Nevil Shute (Norway) is of course a well known novelist, best known for the apocalyptic nuclear war novel "On the Beach." This memoir describes his career as an engineer and manager in the early days of the aircraft industry.Of particular interest is his description of the design contest for an advanced dirigible conducted by the British Ministry of Air in the mid 1920's. It's important to keep in mind that at this point lighter than air craft appeared to be the best long term solution to passenger travel, German Zeppelins having already been placed in scheduled transAtlantic passenger service.The design completion was noteworthy in that two organizations were selected to compete: Vickers, at which Shute was a (at first) a junior designer, and a branch of the Air Ministry itself. While the former was required to sign a formal contract with performance clauses, the Air Ministry had no such constraints. The Vickers offering was the R.100 dirigible, which which by all accounts was a success that eventually met most design criteria, including extensive full power trials and a transatlantic test flight to Canada. The Ministry's effort, named the R.101, turned out a little differently. The airship as built had insufficient lifting capacity, so it had to be bisected and an additional section added. The R.101's control surfaces were designed with power assist, which added considerable weight. Shute's design team was very concerned about this since their calculations indicated that sufficient control authority was available with manual controls (they were right). Full power tests were never conducted prior to a planned politically motivated public relations trip to India, so of the R.101:" She was in fact, doing her full-power trial in exceptionally bad weather with low cloud and driving rain , in pitch darkness in the middle of the night, over a foreign country." The result, of course, was disaster.Shute does a good job of recounting many of the design choices and engineering practices his firm and the Ministry used. The bottom line is that because the government was in fact in charge of the Ministry design, there was little engineering discipline, which led to a number of very bad decisions, both from an engineering and a managerial perspective. A cautionary tale about the efficiency and accountability (or lack thereof) inherent in governmental operations.

  • Gerald
    2019-01-19 19:37

    Slide Rule is Nevil Shute Norway's autobiography about his early years as an aeronautical engineer. It only briefly touches on his sometimes parallel career as author Nevil Shute. The first half of the book covers his involvement during the late 1920's up to 1930 in a very exciting venture in which England sought to develop its own aeroship along the lines of the success of the German Zeppelins. The development was set up in the form of a competition in which one aeroship would be designed and built on a private-industry capitalist approach and the other through a government-initiated Air Ministry organization. Nevil Shute Norway was the chief designer and a primary project manager of the capitalist team. It was quite interesting to follow the respective ups and downs of each team as they brought their finished products to completion. The final test prior to acceptance of which team had won was a successful round-trip from England to Canada for the capitalist team and to India for the government team.In the second half of the book Mr. Norway continues his description of his non-author working years as he details his involvement in starting up an aeroplane manufacturing business from its beginnings as merely an idea through all of its "teething problems" of both the constant effort required to obtain sufficient financing and frequent re-design issues that had to be overcome to create a successful final product. This was an indepth look at the birth and maturing of a very significant business from its beginnings during the 1930's depression until it was sold as a highly successful and integral part of England's WWII war effort to become a major division of a much bigger competitor. I have been a very big fan of author Nevil Shute since I read A TOWN LIKE ALICE many years ago. I have very much enjoyed reading and many times re-reading almost all of his novels. This autobiographical offering of his life as Nevil Shute Norway was of particular interest. It was so very easy to see how he developed the material for his fiction from his real-world experience in the normal working world. For some, particularly those who are not already Nevil Shute fans, this sometimes overly detailed recounting of his experiences might become a bit tedious. But, for true fans of his fiction, I recommend it very much.

  • Scilla
    2019-01-27 20:29

    This was an interesting book, but a little slow going. It begins with a little about Shute's childhood.He had a stammering problem and had some trouble getting a commission into the service because of it. He finally enlisted near the end of WWI. After the war, he went to Oxford. He wrote a couple of books during college, but published During vacations he helped to sail a yacht and then got into aircraft at Airco and deHavilands, and then learned to fly. He finally go a job working on the R100 which was being built in competition with the R101. The difference was the R101 was built under the auspices of the Air Ministry, while the R100 was by private industry. There was a lot about how much better the R100 was because of private industry, and how inefficient the government was. His first two books were published while working on the R100. After the R101 crashed, Shute decided to start his own company, Airspeed. He discussed his difficulties with financing and how in preparation for WWII, the Air Ministry made it really difficult to make money on aircraft for the government. The book ends with his leaving Airspeed.

  • Andrew McClarnon
    2019-02-18 22:34

    An interesting quick read. It's not really a full biography, more of a trilogy of connected essays, all of which are interesting in themselves, and as incidental period pieces now that history has moved on a half century from the time of writing. Moments that struck me as I read, the fact that his father could take a six week winter break (did the comfortably off ever work in those days?), the description of members of the crew taking a break sitting on the top, outside of the airship while it was flying, the casual sexism of the 1930s office where it wasn't alright to refer to a female colleague by her first name. The other thing that is fascinating is how unimportant his writing seems to have been to him. It is mostly refered to as a method of relaxation. One of life's mysteries is if you find something comes to you naturally, you don't see the value of your own work.

  • Kevin Findley
    2019-02-07 17:50

    This one by Shute was a mix of his personal and professional biographies. While it's always interesting to get that glimpse into a writer's background, his first-hand account of the growth of British aviation is much more fascinating. The contest between government agencies and private enterprise to build an airship pulls you into that time and doesn't let go until the crash of the R101 and that last day when the R100 is hangered and left to rot. The remainder of Slide Rule is devoted to the growth of Shute's company and while it is interesting, it felt like the author was so concerned about blowing his horn, that he sold himself short throughout the last 50 or so pages.Still, a very good read for anyone with an interest in biographies, aviation or British history.

  • Dave Morris
    2019-02-05 19:47

    A first-class storyteller tells us about his early life, much of which is spent mucking about in airships. Not just any airships, either. Nevil Shute (Nevil S Norway, that is) was on the design team of the HMA R100 and part of the book is is diary of the test flight to Canada. The shenanigans of airship development are not really so different from working in the games or TV industries, a point that was brought home to me when Shute mentions that the Air Ministry officials who are least likely to sweep unplatable truths under the carpet are the independently wealthy, as they can afford to take career-risking stands that somebody who needs the job will not do.

  • Derek Collett
    2019-02-06 18:38

    This book deals almost exclusively with the author’s work in the aviation industry, his writing is barely mentioned at all and the story concludes in 1938, more than 20 years before Shute died. Calling it an 'autobiography' therefore is a bit of a con! Having said that, the lengthy middle section about the R100 airship is superb and other aspects of his life story also make for interesting reading. Just don't come to this expecting to find illuminating insights into the writing of Shute's novels because there aren't any - he treats his writing with almost cavalier disdain and it is clear that, up until 1938, it was largely subjugated beneath the demands of his (very demanding) day jobs.

  • Sue
    2019-01-28 17:45

    Nevil Shute Norway was an engineer by trade and spent the first 20 years of his career as such. The writing of novels was a hobby of his, as an evening diversion from his day job. Slide Rule is his autobiography of those early years and his involvement with the developing aero industry. It is interesting to read this after having read a number of his novels because it is clear to see where he drew his inspiration from. Some of this is the technical aspects of business and is dry reading, yet I was able to enjoy it overall for the history and for the insight into the man behind the novels. I am glad that he reached a point where he turned to writing full time.

  • Sophie
    2019-01-28 20:50

    Having read and enjoyed several of Nevil Shute's books, I wanted to learn a bit more about the author himself. Covering childhood to retirement, the books main focus is his love of the airplane industry. At times the technical detail of airplane building it a little tough going, however the story of the private R100 vs the ill-fated government backed R101 is interesting.A book of its time as regards language/attitudes to women.A must read for the aviation enthusiast & of interest to those who are not!

  • Laurie
    2019-02-12 21:36

    A very technical read about his working life with airplanes/airships and the beginnings of his company, Airspeed Ltd. There is almost no personal info about his family or writing career, other than to say that writing was his post-workday pleasure. I would have liked to read more about his writing career and his move from England to Australia later in life. It ended somewhat abruptly - I read the Kindle edition and almost felt like I was only sold half the book. Sadly I don't think that's the case!

  • Gabrielle
    2019-01-20 20:46

    I've loved Nevil Shute books for years, ever since my mum first introduced me to "A Town Like Alice" (still my all time favourite!), and so it was really interesting to read this autobiography. Fascinating personal history of the early years of aviation in England, complete with social and political commentary. Some of the technical details went a bit over my head (high school physics could only help me so much!), but I presume some readers will appreciate it. The author's honesty and self-criticism were inspiring and always within the boundaries of decency - like his novels

  • Christopher Bounds
    2019-02-12 22:55

    After many years, it has been a pleasure to pick this book up and read this story of the early years of aviation. Shute is a much under-valued writer these days, particularly in Australia, where he portrays a world of the Forties and Fifties now submerged beneath all the changes that have taken place since, but still recognisable and worthy of recall in his stories. This is a great piece of autobiography, and full of surprises — as a callow youth, I had no idea of the importance of the Dublin GPO in 1915, and Shute's father was the PMG!

  • George Anderson
    2019-01-29 20:57

    The author of On the Beach has a lot to say about building airships and describes in detail their operations and what it was like to fly in them. He participated in the design of the R100- one of two UK airships built between the wars . The other, R-101, crashed in 1930 on its first extended flight killing all but six of its 54 occupants. Overall, a tale where technical competence is pitted against the distorted perceptions and dogmatic decisions of civil servants.