I’m Robert Crouch and I write the Kent Fisher mysteries, set in and around the beautiful South Downs, close to where I live on the south coast.
When I’m not writing, I’m often on the South Downs, where I like to run, take photographs and walk with my West Highland Terrier, Harvey.
But it wasn’t always like this …
I’ve been a storyteller all my life, keen to entertain and make people laugh.
I often wonder if this arose from the feeling that I didn’t fit in. My father was in the RAF, so we moved around and never settled anywhere for long, even after he was discharged. As I had little time to make long lasting friends, I read books, letting my imagination roam new worlds, filled with herioc characters, battling evil.
My active imagination helped me embellish the stories I told. While it made me popular at school, it also aroused resentment, which resulted in another strong-willed pupil proclaiming me a liar. When he walked off, the others went too. I could have followed, but it meant admitting I was a liar, which I was not.
I walked off in the opposite direction … something I’ve done for most of my life.
The Famous Five novels by Enid Blyton encouraged me to be independent, spirited and resourceful. School taught me to take on the education system, which didn’t seem to understand the creative mind. It thwarted and trampled on my ambitions to become and actor, and crushed my interest in becoming an investigative journalist.
Maybe I wrote to vent my frustration at a world that robbed me of my father, who died when I was eight. While my school report the following year described the difficulties I’d experienced, it also revealed my artisitic nature.
‘He expresses himself well in written work and has excellent powers of observation, which makes his descriptions accurate and vivid.’
Without a father and money, everything felt like a battle, fighting to be heard, to be accepted by the middle classes, to to take artistic subjects when the school insisted I study sciences. I saw unfairness and injustice all around me, from the destruction of the environment and habitats to the way the poor and helpless were treated by society.
Luckily, I had my typewriter – the present I requested for my thirteenth birthday. (I had to fight for that too.)
I became an environmental health officer to fight the destruction of the planet and its wildlife, clean up pollution and create a better world.
Well, that’s what I thought the job involved. I got the pollution bit right, but I should have joined Greenpeace, I guess. But I’ve enjoyed my career in environmental health. It took me out and about to solve problems and make a difference to people’s lives. I enforced the law, which appealed to my strong sense of justice and fair play, and worked to helped businesses compete on a level playing field.
Best of all, my work inspired me to create Kent Fisher, an environmental health officer who solves murders. While it took many years to perfect the character and the first two murder mysteries, my hard work was rewarded with the publication of No Accident.
The second Kent Fisher mystery, No Bodies, will be released in 2017. Rooted firmly in the South Downs, the story sees the emergence of a new sidekick in the shape of Columbo, Kent’s West Highland Terrier.
Inspired by my terrier, Harvey, it’s gives me the chance to tip my hat at my favourite TV detective, who filled many lonely hours in my youth with wonderful entertainment and stories.