Robert Crouch Author

So, why did it take me so long to write crime fiction?

Perhaps I was afraid I couldn’t write complex murder mysteries or police procedurals. Most of my crime came from TV dramas like Inspector Morse, Miss Marple, and my favourite detective, Columbo.

Yet ironically, it was Miss Marple that gave me a nudge in the right direction. While watching one of the repeats starring Joan Hickson – A Murder is Announced, I think – I began to notice the clues that were hidden in plain sight.

This intrigued me because it was an insight into the structure of a classic whodunit. Add in the engaging characters, village life in St Mary Mead and the police officers she battled or helped, and I had a blueprint for a traditional murder mystery.

But this wasn’t what tempted me to try my hand at writing one.

It was the idea of an ordinary person, like Jane Marple, solving a murder.

Going right back to my childhood, when I was an avid reader, I always preferred stories where ordinary people did extraordinary things. The Famous Five were the primary example. Four children and a dog had thrilling adventures and solved mysteries during school holidays.

How I wished I could join them.

(Until reading let me down. Show me more.)

From there, I moved on to Narnia and the children who had even greater adventures in another world.

As a child, enjoying these exciting fictional worlds, I often created my own and become a hero myself. It was the start of me exaggerating real life events, telling stories, and going on to write them as a teenager. My writing continued after I left school, producing a few novels that agents and publishers didn’t want.

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By the time I chose to plunge into the crowded pool of crime writing, I was selling articles and features to national and local magazines.

But it wasn’t novel writing. There were no heroes to vanquish evil or fight for justice and fair play.

A serious appraisal of the opposition confirmed my desire to have an ordinary person solving murders in a classic whodunit.

Though hardly original, I wanted to bring something fresh, contemporary and distinctive to the traditional murder mystery.

During the days, weeks and months that followed, murderous thoughts filled the journeys across my South Downs district between food hygiene inspections. Most of these thoughts centred on creating an exciting sleuth who was believable, creative and single-minded.

When in doubt, write about what you know.

I’ve no idea why it took me so long to realise my sleuth could be an environmental health officer (EHO) like me.

Okay, no one pops down to their town hall to report a murder to an EHO, but I’d worked with the police on complex complaints and cases. I’d investigated fatal workplace accidents with the police during the initial stages of an investigation.

What if a killer disguised a murder as a work accident?

My EHO sleuth would investigate, but like Lieutenant Columbo, uncover details that didn’t fit, routines that had been broken.

This was how Kent Fisher and the Downland Murder Mysteries began.

It took longer than you might imagine to get the first novel, No Accident, published.

Why? Because I couldn’t solve the murder.

I know what you’re thinking. I created the murder, so why couldn’t I solve it?

I didn’t create Fisher’s Fables to solve the problem. It wanted to write a humorous blog that spoofed senior management in my local authority. To hide my identity, I let Kent Fisher narrate the blog, and surrounded him with his colleagues from No Accident.

These small steps transformed my writing life.

Taking the new style and voice from Fisher’s Fables, I revised No Accident. But it took a complaint about a poor food hygiene rating to help me find an independent US publisher, which released the novel in June 2016.

Since then, I’ve added another nine novels to the Downland Murder Mystery series. My idea has blossomed into a series where the characters and backstory are as important at the murders being solved. Perhaps it’s the way I envisage the novels as TV dramas while I write. My aim is to deliver entertaining murder mysteries that the whole family can watch and enjoy on a Sunday evening.

One American reviewer told me my novels were like ‘All Creatures Great and Small’ with murders.

Why not try one and see if you agree.

If you’d like to learn more, please take a look at the books.

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In case you’re wondering – answers to some of the questions you may have about the novels, how Kent Fisher became an accidental detective, and more.

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