In college I went to a used book store to buy Shute's "On the Beach". They didn't have it, so I bought "Pied Piper" as a consolation. I've read it three times since. Tremendous novel. An aeronautical engineer by training, Shute was a gifted storyteller and writer. Piper is well paced, has many stories within the story of bringing the children back to England - a man coping with old age, feelings of uselessness, the loss of a son; the formation of a deep friendship with the woman his son left behind, and so forth. Shute hits on the timeless themes of courage, fortitude, self-sacrifice, forgiveness etc. without ever coming close to being maudlin. There are no unnecessary speeches from men standing on a hilltop talking about "what it's all for". As John Howard says, while in custody, to the German officer who tells him he must be a very brave man, "No, not a brave man. Just a very old one."
For the record, I think it was made into a movie twice. Once with Monty Wooley playing Howard and then again for television - mid eighties, perhaps - with Peter O'Toole playing the role. Still, as the story is so marvelous, it should be done again for the big screen. Considering Anthony Hopkins's performance in "The Remains of the Day" (which was superior to the entertaining but far less nuanced Hannibal Lecter), I think he would be perfect to play Howard, putting the perfect cap on his career.