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Pied Piper

Pied Piper

by Nevil Shute

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Nevil Shute’s classic Second World War novel is an uplifting, satisfying and moving story.

John Howard is determined to brighten up his old age by taking a fishing trip to France. However, during his stay the Nazis invade and he is forced to try to escape back to England with the two small children of some friends who must stay behind to help the Allied war effort. As the conflict grows closer, the roads become impassable and Howard also comes across five more children who need his help. He ends up leading this motley group of youngsters through the French countryside, constantly beset by danger yet heroically protecting his charges.

'A very good writer...simple, elegant and readable...a fantastic story' Jonathan Coe

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780307476999
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 08/24/2010
Series: Vintage International
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 301,469
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Nevil Shute (Author)
Nevil Shute was born on 17 January 1899 in Ealing, London. After attending the Dragon School and Shrewsbury School, he studied Engineering Science at Balliol College, Oxford. He worked as an aeronautical engineer and published his first novel, Marazan, in 1926. In 1931 he married Frances Mary Heaton and they went on to have two daughters. During the Second World War he joined the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve where he worked on developing secret weapons. After the war he continued to write and settled in Australia where he lived until his death on 12 January 1960. His most celebrated novels include Pied Piper (1942), No Highway (1948), A Town Like Alice (1950) and On the Beach (1957).

John Boyne (Introducer)
John Boyne is the author of thirteen novels for adults, six for younger readers and a collection of short stories. His 2006 novel The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas has sold more than 11 million copies worldwide and has been adapted for cinema, theatre, ballet and opera. His many international bestsellers include The Heart's Invisible Furies and A Ladder to the Sky. He has won three Irish Book Awards, along with a host of other international literary prizes. His novels are published in over fifty languages.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

His name is John Sidney Hoard, and he is a member of my club in London. I came in for dinner that night at about eight o'clock, tired after a long day of conferences about my aspect of the war. He was just entering the club ahead of me, a tall and rather emaciated man of about seventy, a little unsteady on his feet. He tripped over the door mat as he went in and stumbled forward; the hall porter jumped out and caught him by the elbow.
He peered down at the mat and poked it with his umbrella. 'Damned thing caught my toe,' he said. 'Thank you Peters. Getting old, I suppose.'
The man smiled. 'Several of the gentleman have caught their foot there recently, sir' he said. 'I was speaking to the Steward about it only the other day.'
The old man said: 'Well, speak to him again and go on speaking till he has it put right. One of these days you'll have me falling dead at your feet. You wouldn't like that to happen—eh?' He smiled quizzically.
The porter said: 'No, sir, we shouldn't like that to happen.'
'I should think not. Not the sort of thing one wants to see happen in a club. I don't want to die on a doormat. And I don't want to die in a lavatory, either. Remember the time that Colonel Macpherson died in the lavatory, Peters?'
'I do sir. That was very distressing.'
'Yes.' He was silent for a moment. Then he said: 'Well, I don't want to die that way, either. See he gets that mat put right. Tell him I said so.'
'Very good, sir.'
The old man moved away. I had been waiting behind him while all this was going on because the porter had my letters. He gave them to me at the wicket, and I looked them through. 'Who was that?' I asked idly.
He said: 'That was Mr. Howard, sir.'
'He seemed to be very much concerned about his latter end.'
The porter did not smile. 'Yes, sir. Many of the gentlemen talk in that way as they get on. Mr. Howard has been a member here for a great many years.'
I said more courteously: 'Has he? I don't remember seeing him about.'
The man said: 'He has been abroad for the last few months, I think, sir. But he seems to have aged a great deal since he came back. Getting rather frail now, I'm afraid.'
I turned away. 'This bloody war is hard on men of his age,' I said.
'Yes, sir. That's very true.'
I went into the club, slung my gas-mask on to a peg, unbuckled my revolver-belt and hung it up, and crowned the lot with my cap. I strolled over to the tape and studied the latest news. It was neither good nor bad. Our Air Force was still knocking the hell out of Ruhr; Rumania was still desperately bickering with her neighbours. The news was as it had been for three months, since France was overrun.
I went in and had my dinner. Howard was already in the dining-room; apart from us the room was very nearly empty. He had a waiter serving him who was very nearly as old as he was himself, and as he ate his dinner the waiter stood beside his table and chatted to him. I could hardly help overhearing the subject of their conversation. They were talking about cricket, re-living the Test Matches of 1925.
Because I was eating alone I finished before Howard, and went up to my bill at the desk. I said to the cashier: 'The waiter over there—what's his name?'
'Jackson, sir?'
'That's right. How long has he been here?'
'Oh, he's been here a long time. All his life, you might say. Eighteen ninety-five or ninety-six he come here, I believe.'
'That's a very long time.'
The man smiled as he gave me my change. 'It is, sir. But Porson—he's been here longer than that.'
I went upstairs to the smoking-room and stopped before a table littered with periodicals. With idle interest I turned over a printed list of members. Howard, I saw, had joined the club in 1896. Master and man, then, had been rubbing shoulders all their lives.
I took a couple of illustrated weeklies, and ordered coffee. Then I crossed the room to where the two most comfortable chairs in my club stand side by side, and prepared to spend an hour of idleness before returning to my flat. In a few minutes there was a step beside me and Howard lowered his long body into the other chair. A boy, unasked, brought him coffee and brandy.
Presently he spoke. He said quietly: 'It really is a most extraordinary thing that you can't get a decent cup of coffee in this country. Even in a club like this they can't make coffee.'
I laid down my paper. If the old man wanted to talk to me, I had no great objection. All day I had been working with my eyes in my old-fashioned office, reading reports and writing dockets. It would be good to take off my spectacles for a little time and un-focus my eyes. I was very tired.
I felt in my pocket for my spectacle-case. I said: 'A chap who deals in coffee once told me that ground coffee won't keep in our climate. It's the humidity, or something.'
'Ground coffee goes off in any climate,' he said dogmatically. 'You never get a proper cup of coffee if you buy it like that. You have to buy the beans and grind it just before you make it. But that's what they won't do.'
He went on talking about coffee and chicory and things like that for a time. Then, by natural association, we talked about the brandy. He approved of the club brandy. 'I used to have an interest in a wine business,' he said. 'A great many years ago, in Exeter. But I disposed of it soon after the last war.'
I gathered that he was a member of the Wine Committee of the club. I said: 'It must be rather interesting to run a business like that.'

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