Today I’m happy to introduce crime mystery writer Robert Crouch. Robert writes the kind of books he loves to read. Books ranging from the classic whodunit by authors like Agatha Christie, the feisty private eye novels of Sue Grafton, thrillers by Dick Francis, and the modern crime fiction of Peter James and LJ Ross.
He created Kent Fisher as an ordinary person, drawn into solving murders. He’s an underdog battling superior forces and minds, seeking justice and fair play in a cruel world. These are the values and motivations that underpinned Robert’s long career as an environmental health officer.
He now writes full time from his home in East Sussex. When not writing, he’s often find walking on the South Downs with his West Highland white terrier, Harvey, taking photographs and researching the settings for future Kent Fisher mysteries.
Over to Robert
Which 5 pieces of music/songs would you include in the soundtrack of your life and why?
I Wanna Hold Your Hand – The Beatles. We always had the radio on in the house. I was four when the Beatles flew to America in 1964 to appear on the Ed Sullivan Show. I remember looking at the photograph of them at the airport in my father’s newspaper. But it wasn’t the photograph that interested me. I wanted to know what the words meant – from the headlines to the small print. Though I couldn’t read, I knew these words had magical properties – they told stories.
My father started teaching me to read. I must have been pretty good by the time I went to school because the teachers were not happy at all. They banned me from reading. They told me I couldn’t possibly know if the books were suitable. When I told them I read newspapers, let’s just say they weren’t impressed.
My love of reading started with that story about the Beatles.
Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding – Elton John. This is probably my favourite song of all time. It’s over eleven minutes long and opens Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, the first album I bought in 1973. It inspired me to write songs and learn to play the guitar. (We had no room for a piano.)
Move on three years to a long queue in Manchester to buy tickets to see Elton John live. I was within 10 yards of the door when they sold out. Devastated, I took the train home and complained to anyone who would listen. A few months later, my girlfriend said we were going to a party in Manchester and her uncle would drive us there. Imagine my surprise when we pulled up outside the concert venue. We had seats in the fourth row, thanks to her uncle, who worked in the music business.
I don’t need to tell you which song Elton John opened with that night, do I?
Broken Land – The Adventures. In 1998, my wife and I made our first trip to Northern Ireland to stay with friends we’d made on a previous holiday. On Tuesday, 15th August, we were going to Omagh. As we set off, I asked if we could detour to visit Stormont Castle on the way, so I could take some photographs. As we pulled away from Stormont, the news came on the radio that a bomb had gone off in the centre of Omagh.
We should have been there.
I don’t know whether I believe in fate or Karma, but the bombing brought home the troubles and divisions in what was a broken land at the time. Things are much better now, but this song will always remind me of my first trip to Northern Ireland.
Wishful Thinking – China Crisis
Most of my early years were spent dreaming. When I left home and moved to the South Coast in 1983, I vowed to put an end to wishful thinking and do something with my life, partly thanks to this catchy, melodic song. It touched me on a deeper level than most songs and became the soundtrack for my transition from wishful thinker to achiever. It never fails to lift my spirits.
River of Dreams – Barclay James Harvest. This is a song about regret, about what might have been. It came out in 1998 when I was becoming disenchanted as a writer. I’d published articles in national magazines, but I was going nowhere as a novelist. When I listened to this song, the bitterness in the lyrics made me wonder if regret and resentment were also consuming me.
I decided there and then that I was going to look forward. No more looking back and feeling sorry for myself.
A short while later I created Kent Fisher. While it was many years before the character and stories came to life, I’m not sure I would have got there if it hadn’t been for this song.
Highlight 5 things (apart from family and friends) you’d find it hard to live without.
Harvey, my West Highland white terrier. Apart from being the inspiration for Columbo, the Westie in my novels, Harvey’s been a faithful, if independent part of my life for 14 years. He might be a bit slow these days and hard of hearing, but I wouldn’t be without him.
My computer. I’m not a huge fan of tablets and smartphones (which require me to carry my reading glasses with me all the time), so I do most of my work on the PC. How else would I write, review, post and tweet and do my accounts?
My Kindle – ten years ago, it got me reading more books, rather than waiting for my favourite authors to publish the next paperback. I now read daily and I’m never short of a new book to read. It’s also much easier to read while I’m eating breakfast or lunch, a task that requires three hands for a paperback.
Chips – it’s said we can’t live by bread alone, but I’m willing to give it a go with chips. No salt though and plenty of chilli sauce.
My running trainers – running keeps me healthy, helps me unwind and gives me the chance to work out problems or plot my novels. I’ve composed the opening paragraphs to one of my books, the blurb for another, and often solved plot challenges while pounding the streets. The only drawback? I have to keep repeating everything over and over so I don’t forget anything by the time I return home.
Can you offer 5 pieces of advice you’d give to your younger self?
Take the part in the school play and stop worrying what your friends and classmates will think. Follow your dreams not your fears.
Tell the publishers who like your first novel that you’re only 17. They might be more interested in you as an author, rather than thinking you’re a precocious kid who doesn’t know what he’s doing.
Mistakes don’t make you vulnerable, they make you human. Don’t let your failures define you.
Stop trying to do everything. Focus on what you really want and you’ll get there faster and produce something worthwhile.
Find your author voice – without it you’ll never produce your best writing.
Tell us 5 things that most people don’t know about you.
I’m half Italian, but I won’t tell you which half.
At the age of 12, I won a national short story competition for children.
I worked as a scene shifter for a short time at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester, meeting some lovely actors. (That’s when I discovered they were just ordinary people like me, who acted for a living.)
I fulfilled a long held ambition when I met and had my photo taken with Scooby Doo and Shaggy at Universal Studios in Florida. I’ve no idea what the kids queuing for their photos thought, but I didn’t care.
I hate conflict, which is ironic as I’ve spent so much of my life fighting unfairness and injustice by taking on those who break the law, try to take advantage or try to evade their responsibilities.
Tell us 5 things you’d like to do/achieve.
I’d love to turn the Kent Fisher mysteries into a TV drama series. I think the concept of an environmental health officer solving murders would make great Sunday night viewing for the family. And like Colin Dexter and Alfred Hitchcock, it would be nice to appear in each episode, fulfilling the dream I once had of being an actor.
I’ve always fancied writing a TV sitcom. Fisher’s Fables, a humorous blog I wrote about my experiences as the manager of an environmental health team evolved into a sitcom as the characters took on a life of their own.
I’d like to join JK Rowling for a cup of tea and a chat about her writing, success and how she copes with it. She’s an inspiration, showing how determination and talent can be a potent force.
I would love to go into a recording studio and record some of the songs I wrote in my late teens and early twenties with professional musicians and sound engineers. I’m sure it would be great fun, even if my guitar playing is a little rusty.
Like Kent Fisher I’d love to open an animal sanctuary. (People can help by buying millions of my books so I can afford some land to create the sanctuary!!)
Many thanks for joining us and sharing today Robert. Some great music choices – I’m only a few years ahead of you so remember them all well. Harvey looks a sweetheart, I wanted a Westie for my 18th but sadly never got one. I’ve since discovered Jack Russells but Westie’s are my next favourite. Great advice to your younger self ‘follow your dreams not your fears’ is a great motto to live by. Lovely that one of those dreams was meeting Scooby Doo and Shaggy, you’re never too old to meet your heroes! Sincerely hope you get to see some of your TV dreams come to fruition – Fisher’s Fables has a ring to it! That animal sanctuary sounds a wonderful ambition too, one that I suspect many of us might harbor.
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.
A missing wife. A crooked caterer. A recipe for love or murder?
Colonel Witherington doesn’t believe his wife, Daphne, ran off with caterer, Colin Miller. Neither does family friend, Kent Fisher, when he discovers she left behind her most valued possessions.
He picks up a trail that went cold over a year ago and uncovers a second missing wife.
Is there a serial killer on the loose in Downland?
When a young girl is rushed to hospital after a visit to Kent’s animal sanctuary, he faces ruin.
But it’s nothing compared to the horrors he faces when he closes in on a killer who leaves no bodies.
An old man dead. Dementia or murder? Threats won’t stop Kent Fisher from finding out.
At luxury retirement home, Nightingales, appearance matters more than the truth. But what is the truth? Was Anthony Trimble killed as he predicted? If so, who wanted him out of the way, and why?
Kent puzzles over the only clue Trimble left him. Do the numbers come from a takeaway menu or are they a mysterious code that could reveal his darkest secret?
As Kent digs deep, people start dying.
Will Kent win the race to discover the truth, or become the next victim?
Kent Fisher gets more than he bargained for when Detective Inspector Ashley Goodman enlists his help with a ten year old murder. She’s on a mission and needs a big case to put her career back on track.
And they don’t come much bigger than Miles Birchill, Downland’s wealthiest and most divisive resident.
Not for the first time, Kent has doubts about the case, forcing him to make choices. But who do you trust when everyone has something to hide?
Caught in the middle, he has no alternative but to solve the murder, unaware that his every move is being watched.
Highways Inspector, Derek Forster, couldn’t go on after the death of his wife. Even though he had a secret lover, he took his own life. Or did he?
Samson Capote, the restaurateur from hell, brutally attacked and left to die in a deep freezer. Did he antagonise too many people? Was he sharing Forster’s secret lover?
Millionaire entrepreneur, Clive Chesterton, falls from his yacht and drowns in Sovereign Harbour. Why did he have Forster’s missing journals in his cabin?
When Kent Fisher becomes a murder suspect, he realises he could be the next victim of a killer who shows no mercy.
Can Kent connect the deaths and solve the mystery before the killer gets to him?
Kent Fisher didn’t arrive fully formed.It took determination, perseverance and triumph to bring him to life, giving the traditional whodunit a modern twist with complex murder mysteries inspired by Agatha Christie, Colin Dexter and Dick Francis.Robert Crouch provides a fascinating insight into the creation of a modern sleuth and a series that offers something familiar, but different. Discover how Robert drew on the poverty of his childhood to imbue Kent Fisher with a sense of justice and fair play.Learn how a humorous blog helped define Kent Fisher and the irreverent humour that runs through the stories. Find out how a US publisher offered a contract to publish No Accident, the first novel in the series, after reading the first chapter.
If insubordination were an Olympic sport, Kent Fisher would be world champion, according to his boss, who’s struggling with a section that’s the best at being the worst.
Yet there’s worse to come when Kent shows his dysfunctional team how to win in a no-win situation and get a second chance to make a first impression. No matter what the challenge, or how absurd the strategy, Kent and his colleagues can always find a way to frustrate their superiors.
Loosely based on the author’s experiences, Fisher’s Fables began life as a humorous blog, poking fun at dubious management, even more dubious acronyms, and the most dubious changes never needed.
Fictionalised to protect the guilty, Fisher’s Fables is packed with unforgettable characters and witty dialogue that’ll raise a chuckle or three from anyone who enjoys watching the mighty fall.
The blog and characters went on to inspire the first Kent Fisher murder mystery novel, No Accident, which starts where Fisher’s Fables ends.
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