It’s an absolute pleasure to welcome back Robert Crouch to Linda’s Book Bag. Robert has been kind enough to provide a guest post (here) shortly after Fisher’s Fables was released and another here to celebrate No Bodies. I simply had to invite Robert back to the blog to find out what else he’s been up to.
Staying in with Robert Crouch
It’s lovely to have you here this evening Rob. Welcome back to Linda’s Book Bag.
Hi Linda. Thank you for inviting me.
I know you’ve been here before so which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it?
I’ve brought along the first Kent Fisher mystery, No Accident, because it’s a testament to persistence and refusing to throw in the towel.
When I wrote the first draft many years ago, I had to abandon it two-thirds of the way through, unable to find a way for my protagonist, Kent Fisher, to solve the murder. It seemed I had created the perfect murder.
(That makes me smile! I love the idea of books getting away from authors!)
Several years later, I wrote an ending, though I still hadn’t solved the murder. A friend, who’s a published author, offered to help, but told me the story needed a lot of work. “Set it aside,” she said. “Write something different rather than waste any more time on it.”
But I couldn’t move on until I’d found a way to solve this murder. No Accident became a test of my will as much as my skill.
In 2015, I rewrote the first three chapters and sent them to an American publisher. He liked them, particularly the humour and asked to see the rest of the book. Then I spotted the publishing contract, attached to the email.
(Oh. How exciting.)
How could I even consider or sign the contract until I was satisfied with the story – and found a way to solve the murder?
Whether it was the publisher’s interest after years of rejection, or rewriting and cutting to produce the best novel possible, I don’t know, but I found a way to solve the murder and the novel was originally published in 2016.
Having finally got there, what can we expect from an evening in with No Accident?
Something different, maybe even unique in crime fiction, I hope.
When I created Kent Fisher, I had two aims.–
I wanted to show that an ordinary person could solve a murder.
Let’s be honest, whoever heard of an environmental health officer (EHO) investigating a murder? It sounds as implausible as it is unlikely until you learn that EHOs investigate workplace accidents. Having investigated several fatal work accidents, I knew it was a great way to disguise a murder, which is where the book gets its title.
(Oo. My next door neighbour is a retired environmental health officer. I’ll pop and get him when we finish our chat and you can compare notes!)
Having successfully solved a murder, EHO, Kent Fisher, then has the credibility to go on and solve more complex cases in No Bodies and No Remorse.
Naturally, he’s weighed down by more baggage than an airport carousel. This allows me to create an interesting backstory and cast of characters to make his life as complicated as it can be. Many bloggers and readers comment and become involved with these characters and relationships, which is music to an author’s ears.
I wanted to pay tribute to the mysteries that inspired me – Miss Marple, Inspector Morse and the late Sue Grafton’s feisty Californian detective, Kinsey Millhone.
I wanted to write the kind of book I loved to read – an entertaining murder mystery/whodunit with a complex, twisting plot full of surprises, colourful characters, and humour to counterbalance the murders.
Crime Fiction Lover, which gave me my first ever review, summed it up beautifully:
Expect sharp dialogue and irreverent humour in this whodunit, which manages to pay homage to the traditional murder mystery, while striking a contemporary and irreverent note.
Since then, another reviewer said:
Kent Fisher is a wonderful creation, unique in crime literature.
I know this could put off as many readers as it attracts because crime readers are more familiar with police procedurals and hard-boiled private detectives, but the review always reminds why I write these stories.
(Actually, Rob, there are so many hard boiled private detectives that your series sounds like a breath of fresh air.)
What else have you brought along and why?
Well, as you can tell from the attention you’re getting, I’ve brought my West Highland white terrier, Harvey. Apart from being cute, he’s the embodiment of Kent Fisher’s spirit (and mine). Harvey’s tenacious, determined (or stubborn, if you prefer) and independent, refusing to give up or conform.
(I love Harvey – and not just because he shares a name with my Grandfather! He’s quite friendly isn’t he? Doesn’t he distract you from your writing?)
While I was revising No Accident, he often slept by my feet. If I struggled with a passage, I often talked it through with him. He would sit there, ears pricked, tilting his head from side to side as he listened. Sometimes he would bark and wag his tail. I don’t think he was trying to tell me which solution to choose, but he always made me feel better and return to my writing with renewed enthusiasm.
That’s why he had to be a part of the novels.
(I can imagine. Harvey is a real star!)
During the revisions of No Accident, I realised I had to create an animal sanctuary for Kent Fisher to live in and run in his spare time. It contained some rescue dogs, including a Westie that Kent rescued after it had been badly beaten by its owner. Kent loves the dog, finally taking him off the rehoming list to be his own. Kent names his new companion Columbo after his (and my) favourite TV detective.
And if you’ve watched the TV detective in the crumpled raincoat, you’ll know he never gives up either.
(I loved those programmes.)
Neither will Harvey until you give him another treat.
Then he must have one. Thanks so much for staying in with me tonight Robert and for bringing Harvey along. It’s so lovely hearing how No Accident came into being (with Harvey’s help) and I’m sure many aspiring writers will be encouraged by your story.
A former gangster is dead. It looks like an accident. Only Kent Fisher suspects murder.
When the police decide Syd Collins’ death is a work accident, they hand over the investigation to environmental health officer, Kent Fisher, a man with more baggage than an airport carousel.
He defies a restraining order to enter Tombstone Adventure Park and confronts the owner, Miles Birchill, who has his own reasons for blocking the investigation. Thwarted at every turn, Kent’s forced to bend the rules and is soon suspended from duty.
He battles on, unearthing secrets and corruption that could destroy those he loves. With his personal and professional worlds on a collision course, he knows life will never be the same again.
Inspired by Agatha Christie and Sue Grafton, Robert Crouch brings a fresh voice and a new twist to the traditional murder mystery.
No Accident is available for purchase here.
About Robert Crouch
Inspired by Miss Marple, Inspector Morse and Columbo, Robert Crouch wanted to write entertaining crime fiction the whole family could enjoy.
At their heart is Kent Fisher, an environmental health officer with more baggage than an airport carousel. Passionate about the environment, justice and fair play, he’s soon embroiled in murder.
Drawing on his experiences as an environmental health officer, Robert has created a new kind of detective who brings a unique and fresh twist to the traditional murder mystery. With complex plots, topical issues and a liberal dash of irreverent humour, the Kent Fisher mysteries offer an alternative to the standard police procedural.
Robert now writes full time and lives on the South Coast of England with his wife and their West Highland White Terrier, Harvey, who appears in the novels as Kent’s sidekick, Columbo.