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Literature / Scoop

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Scoop is a 1938 satirical novel by English author Evelyn Waugh.

When a bit of backstage politics at a Fleet Street newspaper goes awry, unassuming nature columnist William Boot is mistaken for an aspiring foreign correspondent with whom he shares his last name, and finds himself shipped to the East African Republic of Ishmaelia to cover the civil war which is expected to break out any day now between the Patriots and the Traitors (which is which, exactly, depends on who's employing him).


Partly based on Waugh's own experience as a Daily Mail correspondent in Abyssinia, the novel is considered a classic for its early, biting portrayal of the media.

This work contains examples of:

  • Adventurer Outfit: Before being sent overseas, Boot is sent to the requisite adventure outfitters who, realising his naivete, sell him a vast mountain of clothing and equipment which he lugs to Africa with him.
  • Bulungi: The (not quite) war-torn Republic of Ishmaelia.
  • Comically Missing the Point: Boot sends all his reports back to England by telegram in fully worded English, prompting the newspaper to suggest that he adopt the more usual practice of abbreviations to reduce the cost. He replies thanking them for their concern, and explaining that it's not costing him anything because he's charging all his telegrams to hisnote  expense account.
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  • Foreign Correspondent: Boot and many supporting characters are journalists covering an Eastern African country likely based on Ethiopia.
  • Gesundheit: Lampshaded when a foreign gentlemen introduces himself by making a sneezing sound, then says, "That is my name."
  • Kent Brockman News: The journalists feud among each other, air their unabashed political biases (or rather, the biases of the newspapers employing them), put as many luxuries down as "expenses" as they can possibly get away with and occasionally just make stuff up when they can't find a story. The novel is quite possibly the Trope Codifier.
  • Lots of Luggage: Boot sets off for Ishmaelia with an enormous pile of clothing and equipment, most of it unnecessary.
  • One Steve Limit: Averted, which is what leads to all of William Boot's troubles. William Boot is mistaken for aspiring foreign correspondent John Courteney Boot, and so finds himself unwillingly covering a civil war in Bulungi.
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  • The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: The rebels have made a big fuss worldwide about their fascist cause, but are hardly ever seen fighting the Ishmaelite government. In fact, they're pretty hard for the journalists to find at all. Pigge suggests that they're waiting for the rain to stop.
  • Pointy-Haired Boss: Lord Copper, a pompous, idle newspaper magnate who sends the wrong man to cover an African civil war because of a name mixup, and appears to have few interests other than making speeches and sketching cows.
  • Snipe Hunt: Boot is sent to buy a variety of non-existent items to prepare for a foreign journey. He's served by an extremely resentful shop assistant who has had the bad luck to always get stuck serving naifs on similar shopping excursions, and who believes that they're just pretending in order to waste his time.
  • Society Marches On: In the introduction to the novel, Waugh mentions how he put aspects of the recent 'ideological' war (referring to the Spanish Civil War between Fascism and Socialism) in his novel. Post-WW 2 the popular assumption is that wars are fought for ideological reasons (and if they're not the people fighting them aren't going to admit it) so the idea that this is unusual seems odd to the modern reader.
  • Strawman Political: The rival Ishmaelite consuls (one representing the communists, the other the fascists) are both hilarious examples of this trope done well.
  • Upper-Class Twit: Being a satire of Fleet Street, a few of these come with the territory.
  • Yes-Man: The closest the the newspaper's foreign editor, Mr Salter, can get to saying that the paper's owner is completely wrong about something is "Up to a point, Lord Copper".


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