“Scoop:” A Classic Satire About Foreign Correspondents

Ronald E. Yates is an author of award-winning historical fiction and action/adventure novels, including the popular and highly-acclaimed Finding Billy Battles trilogy.

(I continue to receive requests that I repost my piece on Evelyn Waugh’s “Scoop,” the classic book that lampoons foreign correspondents.  Here it is. Enjoy.)

If you have never read Evelyn Waugh’s wonderful satire of British journalism entitled “Scoop,” get thee to Amazon or to a bookstore and buy the book. You won’t be disappointed.

“Scoop” ranks number 60 of the 100 best novels of all time. For good reason.

It’s fast, funny, wonderfully written and most of all in an era online journalism, blogs, and social media it still has an undeniable ring of relevance and truth about it even though it was published in 1938.

Evelyn_Waugh_1       Evelyn Waugh

The book is based partly on Waugh’s own experiences as a green correspondent in Ethiopia where he covered the Italian invasion of that country for the Daily Mail in 1935.

At its heart, Scoop is a story about mistaken identity. A timid and hapless nature writer for London’s Daily Beast (Daily Mail) named William Boot, who writes a weekly column entitled “Lush Places,” is mistaken for John Boot, a distant cousin and novelist who wants to be sent to Africa to cover an impending war.

The powers that be at the Beast get the two Boots mixed up and erroneously dispatch William Boot to the fictional East African country of Ishmaelia where he has no idea what he is doing or how to write anything beyond his nature column.

Indeed, William Boot’s idea of outstanding journalistic prose is, “Maternal rodents pilot their furry brood through the stubble,” and “Feather-footed through the plashy fen passes the questing vole”—both lines from his Lush Places column.

Not to worry. Despite never knowing what exactly is happening around him, and sending dispatches back in Latin to keep competitors from reading his