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Gravesend tortoise Albert comes out of his shell for Bluewater book signing

A tortoise from Gravesend was the star attraction at a book signing at Waterstone's, Bluewater this week.

Albert the tortoise, who could be 80 years old, is the inspiration for a series of new picturebooks by author Ian Brown, who was at Bluewater last week to sign copies of his first book - Albert Upside Down.

Author Ian Brown took was inspired to write his book by his tortoise Albert
Author Ian Brown took was inspired to write his book by his tortoise Albert

Albert lived in Cross Lane, Gravesend for more than 50 years after being found there and rescued by Ian's wife Millie.

TV writer Ian, 57, who lives in East London, said it had taken him years of trying to become a published author, and credited the eventual success to his pet.

"After 30 years writing and producing for many household names, people might assume it was easy to get a book deal," he said. "But it took me decades of trying.

"I'm like a kid again," he added. "So excited. Tortoises are seen as steady creatures who persevere. I suppose there is a lesson in that. If you can, keep trying."

Published by Graffeg, Albert Upside Down has since won high praise from high profile names, including comedians Julian Clary and Paul Whitehouse, star of Youtube and Strictly Come Dancing Joe Sugg, former TOWIE star Lydia Bright, Game of Thrones and Vicar of Dibley actor Clive Mantle, Allo Allo actress Vicki Michelle and TV legends John Craven, Michael Aspel and Jeremy Clarkson.

The real life Albert from Gravesend is the inspiration behind the book
The real life Albert from Gravesend is the inspiration behind the book

Influencer Lydia Bright posted to her 1.3 million followers on Instagram that Albert Upside Down was a "new favourite" book for her daughter Loretta, while petrolhead, farmer and former tortoise owner Clarkson said, "I like this book. I like tortoises. What's not to like?"

The Fast Show and Gone Fishing star Paul Whitehouse called the book "Utterly brilliant and charming" and Julian Clary, also a children's author, declared it "Beautiful and heart-warming"

In the wake of Freedom Day, Ian was invited to sign copies by the store and there are plans for the shop to host future events on the Albert books, which are illustrated by Eoin Clarke.

The inspiration behind the story came from the fact the real Albert will sometimes find himself upside down, after trying to climb something.

And in the wake of his fame, you could say Albert is now coming out of his shell - gathering his own fans through his website and social media pages on Facebook and Twitter.

Albert Upside Down is out now
Albert Upside Down is out now

Ian added: "Albert seems to be taking all this in his stride. He has become a bit of a diva but that might just be his age. We've all been amazed at how his popularity has grown. He has fans across the UK,

USA, Japan and Australia.

"It was a treat to sign books at Bluewater Waterstone's as Albert is a bit of a local hero."

Ian's TV credits include The South Bank Show, big red book tribute show This Is Your Life and Top Gear. He's also written or produced for the likes of Harrison Ford, Pierce Brosnan, Michael Caine, Trevor

McDonald, The Simpsons, Martin Kemp, Jamie Oliver, Bob Monkhouse, Ian Wright, Des O'Connor, John Barnes, Davina McCall and Ross Kemp.

"Putting words into the mouth of picturebook Albert was a joy," added Ian, who is due to release book two, Albert and the Wind, in October.

Read more: all the latest news from Gravesend.

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