HarperNonFiction wins six-way auction for ex-prison governor's memoir

HarperNonFiction wins six-way auction for ex-prison governor's memoir

HarperNonFiction has won a six-way auction for the "unflinching" memoir of Vanessa Frake, the former governor of one of Britain’s most notorious prisons.

Publishing director Kelly Ellis acquired UK and Commonwealth (including Australia, New Zealand and Canada) from Susan Smith at MBA Literary Agents. The Governor, written with Ruth Kelly, will be published in spring 2021. 

Frake had a 26-year career in the prison service, joining HMP Holloway as an officer when she was 22. She worked her way up the ranks and 17 years later became head of security and operations at Wormwood Scrubs. The Governor tells how Vanessa cleaned up the infamous prison and put it on the map as one of the most secure and high-performing jails in the country. “Her no-nonsense approach and fearless attitude proved crucial as she engaged in daily battles of the wits with both inmates and staff,” the publisher said. 

The book’s synopsis explains: “The Governor reveals what really happens behind the gates of Britain’s most notorious prisons: from drinking tea made by serial killer Myra Hindley and dealing with celebrity criminals like Pete Doherty, to the violent attack that left her with a chunk of her shoulder missing, recruiting informers or busting drug rings. Vanessa has seen it all and explores the current state of our prison system in unflinching detail through this account of her truly extraordinary career.”

Frake said: “Why am I writing my book?, you may well ask. Well, it’s because I want to tell it as it is. The good, the bad and the downright ugly! Thanks to TV shows and films, everyone thinks they know what goes on in prison. But do they? Thank you HarperCollins, for giving me this incredible opportunity to tell my no-holds-barred account of what it’s really like to be a female governor in one of the UK’s most notorious male jails.”

Ellis added: “From the moment I met Vanessa, I knew I had to publish her story. As a prison officer at Holloway before taking on a huge role as ‘The Governor’ of Wormwood Scrubs–she has seen and heard things that will leave readers in complete disbelief. Vanessa’s vivid portrayal not only lifts the lid on what day-to-day prison life is like (expect both laughter and tears as we meet some very colourful characters) but more broadly we get an overview of the entire prison system in unflinching detail from a woman who has navigated a very male world.”