An Unplanned Series: A Guest Post by Robert Crouch

Lovely Robert Crouch has been a frequent feature on Linda’s Book Bag in several posts you’ll find here. Today I’m delighted to welcome Rob back as he contemplates how he came to write the Kent Fisher series of books with a simply wonderful guest post celebrating getting to the eight book in the Kent Fisher series, No Escape.

Before I share that though, let me tell you about No Escape, which is available for purchase here.

No Escape

One reckless moment, so many lives.

Gemma Dean goes missing one chilly October morning, leaving behind her phone. Texts hint at secrets far darker than Kent Fisher could ever imagine.

When a body is found in his burned out car over a hundred miles away, murder brings the past crashing into the present with the first in a chain of painful discoveries.

Struggling to make sense of a past that threatens to devastate his future, Kent faces his most personal and challenging investigation so far.

But how will he deal with the fallout from one reckless moment that cost so many lives?

An Unplanned Series

A Guest Post by Robert Crouch

On the 19th September 2022, a reader posted a five star review that ended with the following paragraph –

‘I held off writing a review as I wanted to get the second book and see if it was as good. Now I’m on book SIX in the series and it’s STILL rocking along with the same energy, enjoyment and real-life background that’s utterly engrossing, with no sign of becoming formulaic. Wonderful!’

Forgive me for blowing my own trumpet, but when you’re struggling to write Book Nine in the series, and your thoughts keep flirting with an idea for a different novel, you need all the encouragement you can get.

And there you have it in a nutshell – the joys and struggles of writing a series.

Readers want them. They love them, often reading one after another in rapid succession, the way viewers binge watch series on catch up TV. After completing the first two Kent Fisher murder mysteries, I had no plans or ideas for a third.

I only wrote a second novel because the first one had environmental health officer, Kent Fisher, investigating a serial killer. The concept posed several awkward questions that challenged the credibility of the story.

Why was an environmental health officer (EHO) investigating a murder?

Did a relative of the victim pop down to the town hall and ask if an EHO could slip in some sleuthing between food hygiene inspections of local restaurants?

That’s what was happening in No Bodies, the first novel in the series at this point.

So I wrote a second book, which would become the first in what was starting to look suspiciously like a series in the making. Kent had to be drawn into investigating a murder. Disguising a killing as a work accident came to me while I was out on my South Downs district, thinking about murder between food hygiene inspections.

The idea became No Accident, the first Kent Fisher murder mystery. While investigating the accident, he uncovers a perfect murder, which turns out to be the start of his troubles.

Many years were to pass before the novels were published and I had to consider writing a third. Readers enjoyed the first two, liking the characters, the backstory and the complex whodunits. Many also wrote how much they enjoyed something fresh and different from the usual police procedurals on the market.

Could I write a third?

The first two novels were planned in great detail over several years. And how many times could I get away with an EHO investigating a murder? I had visions of him ending up like Jessica Fletcher in Murder She Wrote, relying on relatives and people she knew to provide the sleuthing opportunities.

Kent was a bit of a loner, running an animal sanctuary outside of the day job. He had commitment issues, which meant his love life was a series of short encounters. He lacked the time and large family to support a series of murder investigations.

Or was this fear and self-doubt talking?

One of the other key features readers enjoyed were the glimpses into environmental health work. A health and safety at work accident investigation in the first, infectious disease control in the second.

Could I select some of the other diverse areas of my work as a basis for stories? This could stop them becoming formulaic, further stretching the credibility of my character and the stories.

Don’t ask me where the idea came from, but the opening lines popped into my thoughts one day. It was delivered by an elderly resident in a luxury residential home.

The old man’s grip tightens on my forearm. “They’re killing me.”

Now Kent could have been walking through the main lounge after inspecting the home’s kitchens, but this could become repetitive. Indeed in subsequent stories, I make sure there’s always a chef apologising for not having a body in the freezer.

Instead, Kent took his West Highland white terrier, Columbo, to the care home on a ‘Pets as Therapy’ visit. A few weeks later, the man dies and has to be buried by the local council as he has no relatives to arrange or pay for a funeral. (This was another environmental health aspect to slip into the novel.)

Kent’s drawn into a third murder investigation in No Remorse.

I forged ahead without any planning, not wanting to keep readers waiting. Equally, I wasn’t sure I could produce a third novel, so plunging straight in didn’t allow time for any doubts to defeat me. When I completed the novel, this method became the template for the future.

It also demonstrated the importance of the backstory – the animal sanctuary, his problems at work during a time of Government spending cuts, his romantic encounters, and the characters that had become a family to me. Readers agreed, enjoying these elements, which often added a humorous, cosier counterpoint to the grim aspects of murder.

Determined to avoid repetition, I had the police seek Kent’s help with a cold case in the fourth novel, No More Lies. In No Mercy, the fifth story, I created the restaurateur from hell to wreak havoc on social media after his business was given a poor hygiene rating. When he was murdered in one of his walk-in chillers, Kent became a suspect.

Personal issues in the backstory allowed me to end each novel with a problem and a hook. Of course, this meant the next novel had to answer any questions raised. This meant I had to consider these questions before I could give much thought to the next murder.

And all the time, readers keep telling me each story was better than the previous one, adding to the pressure.

In the sixth novel, No Love Lost, Kent, the hunter, became the hunted. It stuck to the template, but this time his past was under the spotlight. Still with one eye on avoiding formula or cliché, I risked another personal novel for the seventh in the series, No Going Back. This time it was the drowning of a friend and fellow hunt saboteur at the heart of the story.

As I wrote the first draft of the novel, it had the feeling of being the last.

It’s difficult to keep the stories and investigations fresh and inventive. Sooner or later, I’ll produce a novel that doesn’t meet the standards of the previous ones. Then there’s the continuity challenge, which becomes more difficult with each new book in the series.

I keep records of the main characters and events in each novel, but not always the details I need. I’m forced to check back for something as simple as a character’s hair or eye colour, which interrupts the creative flow.

Then, just as I felt sure No Going Back would be the last in the series, I finished with a cliff hanger ending. The moment I wrote the final sentence, I knew I couldn’t leave it there.

Was this my subconscious rebelling? Was I worried about letting down my readers?

No Escape, the eighth novel, was another deeply personal story for Kent Fisher, but one which showed his vulnerabilities. It dragged me out of my comfort zone and opened up a fresh possibility. Could Kent become a private investigator after leaving environmental health?

I don’t know how readers will react to this new approach. I’ve no idea whether it will work.

Then again, I never planned to write a series of eight novels either.


What an absolutely wonderful guest post Rob. You illustrate so brilliantly the writing process and an author’s self-doubts and efforts. Thanks so much.

About Robert Crouch

Robert Crouch and Harvey

Robert Crouch brings something familiar but different to the traditional murder mystery.

Drawing on his experiences as an environmental health officer, he created amateur sleuth, Kent Fisher. Being neither a police officer nor a private investigator, Kent brings a fresh and original twist to the classic whodunit.

When he’s not writing most complex murder mysteries, Robert enjoys roaming the gentle hills and beautiful coastline of the South Downs with his wife. Armed with a camera or two, he likes to capture the wildlife and settings that play such a big part in his novels.

You can find out more on Robert’s website, and if you sign up to Robert’s reader’s group here, you’ll receive a free copy of Fisher’s Fables. You can also follow Robert on Twitter @robertcrouchuk and find him on Instagram and  Facebook.

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