This is the second of the two novellas that Shute wrote early on in his career, but which he decided against publishing. His family, figuring to make some extra cash, did publish them. The two novellas are related, in that they have some common characters. But, if truth be told, they're not nearly up to the quality one would expect from Nevil Shute. Still, neither are exactly bad reads, perhaps just so-so or meh!
Anyway, it seems that Peter Dennison is somewhat smitten by Sheila Wallace. He tells her that he has a job in Honk Kong that will allow him to afford to marry her. She turns him down because she knows he'd be unhappy in Hong Kong, but unfortunately, implies to him that she would be the unhappy one.
So, Dennison goes off into a funk. He takes his sail boat out into the English Channel for a few days, but has a run-in with a much larger ship and is injured. The ship is owned by Sir David Fisher, who is working with Stephen Morris and Capt. Rawden (prominent in the first novella) on a scheme to launch an airplane (well aeroplane
, I suppose) from a ship so as to reduce the amount of time important documents can be sent between Europe and the U.S. It seems that airplanes in those days—shortly after the end of World War I—didn't have the ability to fly more than about 1000 miles. So, the idea was to sail the airplane for the first 2000 miles across the Atlantic, and then launch the plane for the rest of the trip. That way they could cut down the transit time from something like 7 days to something like 4 or 5 days.
Dennison, of course doesn't know any of this. But, Sir David seems to remember some sailing history and finds that Dennison was quite a sensation as a sailor and as a navigator in his teen years. They check him out and hire him to be Morris' navigator when they do the test run. Oh, and also, Dennison can pilot Sir David's sporting yacht in the various races in which rich people indulge themselves.
Well, that gives a bit of the story. It's better than the first novella in the series, Stephen Morris
, but still a bit rough in spots, as would be expected by something Shute himself didn't deem to be publishable.
When I was in about 4th grade, my father had a gig working on a project that was to launch jet planes from platforms. I think the idea was to have the planes on flat-bed train cars, or perhaps behind huge trucks, that would get the planes to strategic locations, where they could be launched as needed. The work was at an airfield in California, so that year, we got to have our family vacation in California, first a couple of weeks at a motel (with an actual swimming pool!), while my dad did his work, and then a travel around the fun parts of California. I wonder what my dad would have thought about this book. He was an airplane guy.