Books: The Two Lives of Nevil Shute

"After two wars I have been in danger too often to bother very much about being killed," Novelist Nevil Shute once wrote, "and when it comes, I would prefer that it should happen in an aeroplane, since aeroplanes have been the best part of my life." Death did not oblige 60-year-old Nevil Shute last week, for it came prosaically in a Melbourne hospital bed, after a stroke. It was an ending the hero of any of Shute's 21 novels would have understood, for each of them faced up dutifully to the enormity of life's commonplaces.

Their creator was far from commonplace. Though...

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