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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, realizing 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.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The collapsible boat that Boot buys early in the novel becomes useful about two-thirds of the way through, when he loans it to Katchen and her husband so that they can escape 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.
  • Company Credit Card Abuse: Boot is given an expense account for his trip to Ishmaelia. He mostly avoids abusing it, except that he keeps sending his reports in full-worded English rather than using abbreviations, and when the paper suggests that he use more abbreviations to save money, he thanks them for their concern, but notes that it's not costing him anything.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: Despite Boot's best efforts to woo her, Katchen reconciles with her husband and flees Ishmaelia.
  • 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 Ishmaelia. Happens again in the finale, when Lord Copper insists on having Boot knighted and treating him to a banquet; the knighthood is accidentally conferred on John Courtney Boot, and when William Boot refuses to return to London for the banquet, Salter instead recruits William's uncle, Theodore Boot, to cover for him.
  • 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 mix-up, and appears to have few interests other than making speeches and sketching cows.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: As a reward for William Boot's coverage of the supposed war in Ishmaelia, John Courteney Boot is sent to cover an all-female expedition to Antarctica.
  • 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.
  • Spy Speak: Boot can't comprehend the abreviated telegraph messages being sent to him, and is so clueless about his job he asks a rival newspaperman to interpret them. He claims ignorance, only relenting the next day on finding out their papers have teamed up.
  • Strawman Political: The rival Ishmaelite consuls (one representing the communists, the other the fascists) are both hilarious examples of this trope done well.
  • Take That!: Minor character General Cruttwell, who cons Boot into buying a load of gear that he doesn't need, is named for C.R.M.F. Cruttwell, Waugh's old Oxford tutor, who Waugh famously hated.
  • 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".