W&N wins three-way auction for first biography of Agent Zo

W&N wins three-way auction for first biography of Agent Zo

Weidenfeld & Nicolson has won a three-way auction for the first biography of Elżbieta Zawacka, known as Agent Zo, the female Polish Second World War resistance fighter, written by Clare Mulley.

Editorial director Maddy Price acquired world rights in Agent Zo: Woman on a Mission, tipped by the publisher as "the untold story of one of the greatest female resistance fighters of the Second World War", from Georgina Capel of Georgina Capel Associates. It will be published in spring 2024 in hardback, trade paperback, e-book and audio. 

W&N said: “Agent Zo was the only woman to join the Polish elite Special Forces, known as the ‘Silent Unseen’. She was secretly trained in the British countryside, and then the only woman to be parachuted back behind enemy lines to Nazi-occupied Poland. There, while being hunted by the Gestapo who arrested her entire family, she took a leading role in the Warsaw Uprising and the liberation of Poland.  

“After the war she was demobbed as one of the most highly decorated women in Polish history. Yet the Soviet-backed post-war Communist regime not only imprisoned her, but also ensured that her remarkable story remained hidden for over 40 years. Now, through new archival research and exclusive interviews with people who knew and fought alongside Zo, Clare Mulley brings this forgotten heroine back to life, and transforms how we see the history of women’s agency in the Second World War.” 

Mulley is an award-winning author of several other historical titles and a regular contributor to TV, radio and podcasts. She is also a public speaker who writes and reviews non-fiction for the Daily Telegraph, Spectator and History Today.  

“Clare Mulley has a special talent for discovering the stories of extraordinary women who have gone unrecognised or underappreciated throughout history,” Price said. “Agent Zo is the perfect example of a courageous and talented woman who deserves to be celebrated internationally. Her story is electric, and Clare brings it to life with an impeccable eye for detail and vivid storytelling.” 

Mulley said: “All too often women in the resistance are honoured for their beauty and sacrifice rather than their achievements. Zo was the only female courier to reach London from Nazi-occupied Warsaw, a journey that included travelling into Nazi Germany, hiding in the tender of a train, and being shot at in the Pyrenees. 

"Zo’s courageous fight both for her country, and for women’s equality, resonates deeply today. Agent Zo not only tells the story of one remarkable individual, but through her also transforms how we regard the history of the Second World War.”