Dear Gossips,    

The big story today is The Guardian’s Prince Harry book exclusive and Harry revealing that Prince William attacked him and we’ll get to that later but first… how did the publication manage to break the story before everyone else? The Daily Mail seems to be particularly salty about it, pointing out that The Guardian is a “left-wing” paper, suggesting that this might be a political play. 


What they’re missing – because of course, they’re the Daily Mail – is that The Guardian has an ace reporter who specialises in book scoops, and has been scooping major book releases for years. Martin Pengelly is their breaking news editor, and he’s the one who managed to get a copy of Harry’s Spare ahead of the release date. 

This is just Martin’s latest though in a consistent streak of book scoops for The Guardian. He does this so often the Washington Post covered it back in 2021: 

“Over the past four years, while a fleet of top journalists and government officials have raced to the marketplace with best-selling tell-alls about the Trump administration, Pengelly has carved out a unique specialty: He’s the guy who somehow manages to get a contraband copy of each book first — and beat the world in spilling the most consequential and interesting details.”


Martin’s scoops aren’t limited to Trump though. He also had advance coverage of Huma Abedin’s memoir and Jim Acosta’s memoir – and he manages to do all of this “without breaching any embargo agreements”. So he obviously has great connections in the publishing industry but also, probably, with booksellers, and the Washington Post speculated back then that this is likely how he gets his copy of the books before anyone else. New books typically arrive at bookstores a week ahead of release, and book releases usually happen on Tuesdays. 

“The ship-and-release timing matches up with the timing of Pengelly’s articles. His stories tend to be published on the Wednesday or Thursday before release day — strongly suggesting he acquired them just after they arrived at the shipping dock of his local bookstore.”

This exactly matches the timeline of the Prince Harry book leak. Copies of Spare would have been delivered on Tuesday, and The Guardian’s exclusive was published late last night (Wednesday) in North America/early this morning (Thursday) in the UK. 

This isn’t a conspiracy; this is, quite simply, great work by a specialised reporter, Martin Pengelly, who has become the leader in a niche field. And while he, understandably, appears to be unwilling to reveal how, exactly, he gets his scoops, I’m more interested in other parts of the process. 


Because some of the books he scoops are LONG! And when you’re sitting on an exclusive, you have no time to spare, no pun intended. For me, then, it’s the turnaround time. He gets the book on Tuesday, powers through it, then has to file his piece. I’m a quick reader but I’m a slow thinker. I have to sleep on a book before I can put together any thoughts on it, literally. So while I might be able to finish the book in the same amount of time, I could not immediately turn around and write coherently about it right away. This, to me, is a superpower. 

And film critics operate the same way. This is how Sarah works at TIFF. She sees sometimes four or five films a day, and then is able to file a review of those films the next morning. That’s basically the timeline Martin Pengelly is working on with these volumes that he keeps scooping. This is what I would ask him about. I want to know about his notes, I want to know how he decides what to lead with. I want to know how many hours it takes. I want to know when he sleeps. So my point is: much respect to the work! 

Yours in gossip,