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Scoop

Daily Beast, Beast's

mistaken boot william novel

a novel by E. Waugh, published in 1938. Mistaken identity is the central plot device in the novel, which satirizes the cynical opportunism of Fleet Street journalists in search of a story as well as Waugh's more familiar target of contemporary morality. William Boot is a naïve young man who lives with his parents and a large extended family of grandparents and elderly retainers on the decaying estate of Boot Magna. When, mistaken for the fashionable novelist John Boot, he is sent by the editor of the Daily Beast (a newspaper owned by the powerful magnate Lord Copper) to cover the civil war in the imaginary African republic of Ishmaelia, he is horrified at the thought of relinquishing his rural idyll (his only journalistic experience is as the Beast's nature columnist) and spends the rest of the novel trying to get himself recalled by the newspaper. He is hindered in this endeavour by a beautiful German girl, Katchen, whom he meets at the Pension where he is staying. Prevented by his involvement with Katchen from following the other special correspondents on a wild goose chase into the desert, William encounters the mysterious ‘Mr Baldwin’, to whom he had previously offered some assistance, who reciprocates by providing him with his ‘scoop’, a sensational account of a Russian plot to overthrow the Ishmaelian government. As a result of this, William becomes the hero of the hour and it is with the greatest difficulty that he manages to avoid attending the banquet given in his honour, at which his uncle Theodore, in a final case of mistaken identity, takes his place. Waugh drew on his own experiences as a war correspondent in Abyssinia during the 1930s for the book, one of the few of his novels to have a (relatively) happy ending.

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