The Truth (novel)

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The Truth
Author Terry Pratchett
Language English
Series Discworld
25th novel – 4th individual story

Newspaper journalism, Watergate

William de Worde
Genre Fantasy
Publisher Doubleday
Publication date
Awards Came 193rd in The Big Read.
ISBN ISBN 0-385-60102-6

The Truth is the twenty-fifth Discworld novel by Terry Pratchett, published in 2000.

The book features the coming of movable type to Ankh-Morpork, and the founding of the Discworld's first newspaper by William de Worde, as he invents investigative journalism with the help of his reporter Sacharissa Cripslock. The two investigate the charges of embezzlement and attempted murder against Havelock Vetinari, and help vindicate him.

The Ankh-Morpork City Watch characters also appear in this novel, but have limited roles and are seen mainly from de Worde's perspective. C.M.O.T. Dibbler also puts in an appearance.

Plot summary[edit]

William de Worde is the black sheep of an influential Ankh-Morpork family, scraping out a humble lifestyle as a common scribe and making extra pocket money by producing a gossipy newsletter for foreign notables.

When William falls in with a group of dwarves who have come to Ankh-Morpork to set up shop with their printing press, he inadvertently founds AM’s first newspaper. Realizing that with their press the dwarves can help him put out a newsletter every day, William begins scrambling to find enough interesting events to fill up the space. Arguing that it isn’t worth the effort just to make a few copies for William’s wealthy foreign subscribers, the dwarves print hundreds of copies of the “Ankh-Morpork Times” and hire a group of oddball beggars to pitch them on the street. William is shocked when the newsheets sell like hot cakes, bringing in more money than he wants or knows what to do with.

Before he knows it William has assembled a newsroom staff, including Sacharissa Cripslock, a prim young woman who attracts news items from talkative, flirtatious city guards, Otto, a vampire photographer from Uberwald who has sworn off drinking blood and often disintegrates in his own camera flash, and Rocky, a quasi-literate troll who deals with the more irate members of the public.

Meanwhile, a conspiracy is afoot in the city to depose the Patrician, Lord Vetinari. The wealthy and powerful (but anonymous) Committee to Unelect the Patrician hire Mr. Pin and Mr. Tulip, a pair of villainous mercenaries from outside Ankh-Morpor known as the New Firm, to frame Vetinari with a staged embezzlement. Pin and Tulip manage to catch off-guard the normally impassible Patrician with Charlie, a witless Vetinari look-alike that they had previously kidnapped and forced to collaborate. The plan starts going south, though, when Drumknott, Vetinari's clerk returns in middle of the scene and the New Firm is forced to stab him and render Vetinari unconscious, hoping to also frame him for murder; their efforts are hampered by Lord Vetinari’s prized terrier, Wuffles, who manages to escape, not before having bitten Mr. Pin.

William and the Times staff investigate the strange charges against the Patrician and set out to find the missing Wuffles to outdo the Watch, who expects to get from him a witness report with the help of their resident werewolf. William's exceptional powers of observation and deductive capabilities are, however, slowed down by threats from the local Guilds, the sudden appearance of a competing paper (the scandalous and largely fiction-filled tabloid “Ankh-Morpork Inquirer”), pressure from the City Watch, and Otto's repressed vampire instincts.

William makes the mistake of advertising a reward for information leading to Wuffles' recovery. Hundreds of Ankh-Morpork citizens mob the offices with dogs of every shape and variety (including many that are actually cats, birds, or cows) hoping to cash in. The New Firm arrive too, capturing every terrier in the crowd hoping that one of them will be Wuffles, and trying to intimidate the Times staff. Otto drives them off using “Dark Light” a photography method with which he had been experimenting and that has the effect of capturing images from any point in time. It has the inadvertent effect of showing Mr. Pin (or making him imagine to see) the angry ghosts of his many past victims, triggering a moral crisis for the normally remorseless thug. Realising that the job is much harder than their employers had initially suggested, the New Firm decides to skip town, not without extorting from their employers's zombie lawyer and representative Mr. Slant their promised payment and a big "bonus" in jewels, using compromising previous voice recordings captured with a dis-organiser Mk II.

An anonymous tipster named "Deep Bone" (actually Gaspode, the talking dog who operates as the brains of the beggar crew who sell the Times) helps William track down Wuffles and "translate" his testimony, giving William the last pieces of the puzzle. In the meantime, Sacharissa accidentally discovers the New Firm’s hideout in William’s own family manor and is captured by the pair of thugs —who had returned to dispose of Charlie. They head back to the Times hoping to exchange her for Wuffles and then, silence all witnesses. In the ensuing struggle a lamp explodes and the Times' offices catch fire.

William and the others manage to escape outside while Pin and Tulip hide in the cellar. Hot melted lead from the destroyed printing press leaks down on them through the roof, and Pin resorts to murdering his partner so that he can save himself by standing on the much larger man’s corpse. Pin, now only partially sane, emerges from the cellars and attacks William once the fire is out, only to be killed when he is impaled on the memo spike from William’s desk. From the criminal's body, William retrieves the fortune in jewels, the dis-organiser, and the last bit of evidence: Wuffles' bite marks on Pin's leg.

However, with the press and office destroyed, it seems like the Times will not be able to go live with their break-out reportage in time. The liberal application of a crossbow wielded by a daring Saccharisa, dwarven axes, bribery in jewels, and Otto’s sense of dramatic atmosphere helps the crew “borrow” one of the Inquirer’s presses for the evening. The big story breaks the next day and Lord Vetinari’s name is cleared just before a new, Guild-controlled Patrician would have seized power.

The New Firm, meanwhile, discuss the finer points of reincarnation, and who does and does not merit it, with Death.

After the recordings on the dis-organiser help William discover the identity of the man behind the Committee to Unelect —his own estranged father, Lord de Worde, he decides to confront him. A tense argument, blackmail with the threaten of exposure, a life's worth fortune in jewels and the less-than-tender ministrations of Otto fail to intimidate De Worde into leave the city in exile as William demands. However, after learning that his machinations nearly ended killing his own son, he admits defeat and walks away.

In the end William is ambivalent about the new and unexpected role of the free press in his life and in the world, but resolves that someone must tell the public the truth about what goes on in the city, even if the public doesn't want to hear it. The Times comes to be recognized, if not exactly welcomed, by the powers that be in the city, and William and Sacharissa make plans to expand even further, hiring new staff, establishing offices in other cities, and hopefully one day squeezing in time for a lunch date in between deadlines.

External links[edit]

Reading order guide
Preceded by
The Fifth Elephant
25th Discworld Novel Succeeded by
Thief of Time
Preceded by
Small Gods
5th Individual Story
Published in 2000
Succeeded by
The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents