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Doctor Zipp’s Amazing Octo-Com by Dan Carrier

The London Evening Press And Star is a local newspaper holding its own in a time of fast-moving, celebrity-obsessed, click-bait global news. And the unnamed narrator of this book is one of its reporters, an old-school journalist dedicated to his community and his craft. But with every news item there is a bigger, more complex tale, and drawing on his notebooks he reveals the stories behind the stories, and the journeys he has taken to discover their hearts.

Meet Eddie Roll, karaoke-barge proprietor, and find out how he keeps his business afloat on the city’s canals. Hear how Batman and Robin leapt from the pages of a comic book to come to the rescue of someone in need. Discover what links Elvis Presley and meals on wheels, learn of Kermit The Hermit of Hampstead Heath, spend time in the company of a generous Irishman from NW1. And read about the life and death of the enigmatic Doctor Zipp, a marine biologist and inter-species language expert who believed we could learn a lot from the octopus.

If a city is its people and their stories, then this is London at its warm-hearted, eccentric best…

The Euphrates Karaoke Barge
Eddie Roll is the proprietor of the Euphrates. It is a bar and karaoke joint, and Eddie, a DIY genius, has poured his life into making it a waterborne masterpiece. He spends his days chugging up and down the canals of London, and every weekend moors in Camden Town where people come onboard to drink beer and sing songs. It is the perfect place to pick up a tip or meet a contact, and the reporter likes to head there after work to unwind and hear the gossip from the markets. But as gentrification threatens his niche business Eddie hatches a plan that will not only boost his bottom line, but also tackle darker, underworld bigwigs who threaten the community he calls his own.

Mrs Collins And The King
It was a police raid with a difference. Instead of a dawn start with battering rams and barking dogs, police in stab-proof vests and criminals to handcuff, the officers gently knocked on the neatly painted door and asked if they could come in. Waiting for them was Peggy Collins, a retired meter maid and Elvis Presley fanatic, who had a life-long secret she did not want to share.

Tea And Sympathy
Michael Corcoran has spent much of his life on the streets of Camden Town. He has many friends and Good Samaritans looking out for his welfare as he ekes out food and shelter in his twilight years, and always notes their generosity with a receipt, hastily scribbled on strips he tears from paper bags. There is the cafe owner who provides tea and breakfast, a cleaner in his hostel who finds him clothes, a kiosk owner who hands over editions of Irish newspapers and the price of a pint, a poet with a large, tumbledown home who offers a sofa when Mick finds himself between hostels, and a Catholic priest with an armchair by a gas fire. One day, the worthless IOUs he leaves for those who have shown him care take on a new meaning.

Grand Theft Autobus
The press benches in the corner of a magistrates’ court provide a window into the mores of human motivation. They are a place where any reporter can pick up a story that illustrates the intricacies of the human psyche – and has there been any ‘criminal’ quite as eccentric as Bobby Dove, a prolific joyrider of large vehicles?

Kermit The Hermit
He had spent three decades living quietly in a ramshackle potting shed, tucked away in the abandoned gardens of a mansion on the edge of Hampstead Heath. Known as Kermit The Hermit, he has become a fixture in the neighbourhood, a harmless eccentric whose outdoor lifestyle is admired and respected by those who occasionally meet him. But when the house, used by the NHS as a nursing home, is sold off and a billionaire decides it’s just the place to build a home fit for an oligarch, Kermit’s tenure is set to end.

The Duke Box Hazards
A lights-jumping, short-cut taking, package-delivering bike courier by day, at night Greg plays guitar in Camden Town pub band The Duke Box Hazards. One day he gets hit by a truck, and as he lies in hospital asks his friend, the reporter, to take down a confession he wants to get off his chest – a confession linked to the life-threatening accident he has suffered.

Dr Zipp’s Amazing Octo-Com
Sometimes a reporter hears of a story that just can’t be true, but has enough mystery or humour about it to offer up an angle. Trawling the lists at a coroners’ court in the hope of finding a story to cover, the inquest into the death of a marine biologist and octopus expert called Dr Harry Zipp – who drowned while conducting a shellfish study in the Channel Islands – piques his interest. Researching the enigmatic Dr Zipp’s background, he soon finds himself drawn into a strange tale that just has to be told.

The Dustman And Robin
Times are tough, and The Evening Press And Star wants to find human-interest stories to illustrate how austerity is affecting its readers. Dustman Devon Williams has worked hard all his life, but finds his pay packet barely covers the basics. And with the bedroom tax hanging over him and his mother in their small council flat, he needs to find new ways to make ends meet. For Devon, the adage ‘where there’s muck there’s brass’ puts him a quandary that his morals make impossible to solve.

We'll Meet Again
Bob Sixsmith has just retired from a job that saw him spend the best part of forty years ferrying around the Mayor as the Town Hall’s chauffeur. At his farewell party, the reporter, who is covering it, asks him what he’ll do next. Gardening? Spending time with the grandkids? Take up a hobby? No – Bob has a mission to accomplish, a ghost to lay to rest that has haunted him since he was a young evacuee sent out of London to escape the Blitz. And he needs the reporter’s help.

A Fisherman’s Tale
The discovery of a Ford Mark II Escort dumped in a pond on Hampstead Heath sets off conspiracy theories as to who rolled it in there and why. What dark events led to its watery resting place? Was it the getaway car for a robbery, or something more sinister? The Evening Press And Star gets on the case, and uncovers something far more entertaining than a Sweeney-style gangster link.