Jonathan Cape has triumphed in a nine-publisher auction for a “fly-on-the-padded-wall” debut from junior psychiatrist and comedy writer Benji Waterhouse.
Bea Hemming, deputy publishing director, acquired world rights to You Don't Have to be Mad to Work Here from Lucy Morris with Cathryn Summerhayes at Curtis Brown. Publication is due for spring 2022.
Hemming said: “Benji’s was one of the smartest, funniest, sharpest and most eye-opening proposals I’ve ever read. He brings a rare combination of wit and humanity to some of the most difficult aspects of what make us human. You Don't Have to be Mad to Work Here will be a book that speaks with urgency and insight about the crisis of mental health and healthcare, while also introducing a brilliant storyteller. I can’t remember the last time there was such a deep consensus at Cape and Vintage that we had to acquire a book.”
Film and television rights have already been sold to House Productions, in a deal brokered by Luke Speed on behalf of Morris and Summerhayes. North American and translation rights are being sold by the Penguin Random House rights team, with deals already tied up in Poland and Russia.
The synopsis explains: “Humane, humorous, candid and myth-busting (spoiler: there are no padded walls), Benji Waterhouse reveals the reality of life on both sides of the doctor’s desk. This is Benji’s story of becoming a psychiatrist, of temporarily leaving the profession disillusioned, burnt out and compassion fatigued, and of finally rediscovering his empathy to return to help fight the pandemic afflicting the nation’s lungs and minds. Poignant, eye-opening and darkly hilarious, You Don't Have to be Mad to Work Here introduces a major new writing talent.”
Waterhouse is a frontline NHS doctor specialising in psychiatry with a decade’s worth of experience. He is also an award-winning stand-up comedian — under the stage name Benji Waterstones — and is hoping to perform his debut hour-long Edinburgh Fringe show in August 2021. He has written for the Guardian and Independent and was featured in a list of inspiring psychiatrists by the Royal College of Psychiatrists.
He said: “Recently the country has been getting through medical memoirs faster than hand sanitiser. But the psychiatrists have been quiet, until now. I’m excited to introduce readers to the newest, most controversial and least understood medical speciality. And to finally explain the difference between a psychiatrist, a psychologist and a psychic. The overwhelming interest received from publishers was encouraging for mental health, and to sign with Cape which publishes so many of my literary heroes is very surreal.”