“Evelyn Waugh and Scoop are something of a "hook" in this short memoir by W.F. Deedes of his time covering the Italian invasion of Abyssinia for the Morning Post. Waugh's presence in the tale is intermittent, while "the real story of Scoop" is for the most part the...”see full review » see other reviews »
“Evelyn Waugh and Scoop are something of a "hook" in this short memoir by W.F. Deedes of his time covering the Italian invasion of Abyssinia for the Morning Post. Waugh's presence in the tale is intermittent, while "the real story of Scoop" is for the most part the subject of one specific chapter. Waugh's characters were largely composites, or drawn from imagination, but Deedes notes a number of interesting parallels with real figures of the era, including himself; Deedes' youth, self-confessed naivety, and vast luggage may well have inspired elements of William Boot; the character of Wenlock Jakes, fictitious author of a ludicrous book about the British ruling class called Under the Ermine, is based on Johnny Gunther of the Chicago Daily News, real author of a popular book called Inside Europe (although Gunther never reported from Abyssinia). As an aside, Deedes corrects disparaging comments made about another journalist, Stuart Emeny, in Waugh's letters and his non-fiction book War in Abyssinia: "The truth is that socially Emeny was simply not Waugh's cup of tea". Emeny later perished in the same aircrash that killed Orde Wingate.
Deedes discusses the received wisdom that Scoop was Waugh's reaction against a profession at which he had failed, but he judges that "Waugh in fact had the qualities of a good reporter. His ear was well attuned to the idiocies of this world. He was curious, thorough in any enquiry he made, very quick on the uptake, persistent and observant, and never nervous of embarrassing anyone." Waugh's relationship with the Daily Mail broke down over his failure to land a scoop about an oil concession, and Deedes draws attention to Waugh's earlier account of the coronation of Haile Selassie for the Times: "More colourful and more accurate than almost all the other accounts. Because communications were so slow, some reporters filed their stories before the coronation took place, so their descriptions of what took place were perforce wildly inaccurate". The odd thing, of course, is the same journalistic vice is very much in evidence today for exactly the opposite reason: communication is so fast, newspapers want instant copy for their websites.
The last part of the book is an account of Deedes' return to Addis Ababa in 2000 to cover the internment of Haile Selassie's remains, which had been recovered in 1992. Although an elaborate public spectacle involving the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, it was an unofficial event organised by a private foundation.”