A hero for today

Have you ever read a book or watched a TV programme and wished you could write something as good?

Inspector MorseNeither had I until I saw the original Inspector Morse series. The superb characterisation, complex and intriguing plots, and the beautiful Oxford settings captivated me. About the same time, BBC 1 aired the Miss Marple series, adapted from Agatha Christie’s books.

Both programmes evoked the same emotion and desire to write a complex murder mystery.

At this point, I should tell you I was already a writer. Not a successful one, unless you include the national short story competition I won at the age of 12. That early enthusiasm and promise never quite materialised into something a publisher would want or take – until Morse and Marple got under my skin.

I sensed a brighter future. But first, I needed a hero for my murder mysteries – someone different, someone flawed but principled, charismatic and up to the job.

Police officer or private investigator?

While I’d worked with the police many times as an environmental health officer (EHO), I had no idea how they investigated murders. With DNA evidence making its mark, I thought I’d leave it those who understood such things.

Sue GraftonEqually, I had no idea how private investigators worked. Sue Grafton’s first novel, A is for Alibi, featuring PI Kinsey Millhone tempted me to create my own investigator. The character was feisty, sassy, funny and quite ruthless in completing any job she took. The books were a joy to read.

Could I create a male version of Kinsey?

It took some time for Kent Fisher to evolve. The name took almost as long to create, but that’s a subject for another day. He was tough, determined, single-minded, hopeless in love, and had a good stock of witty one-liners.

But was he flawed?

In his first outings, he was more like Rambo than Morse. That’ll teach me to make him a former paratrooper. He was married to an unsuitable woman. While it seemed like a good idea at the time for extra conflict, I couldn’t imagine him falling for such a woman. Net result – I failed to write with any conviction.

My attempts to make him a PI fared no better.

Thanks to my healthy appetite for Dick Francis, that left me with one option. Many of his heroes were ordinary people, drawn into adventures and investigations that often put them in grave danger.

Kent Fisher became an EHO

Kent Fisher and ColumboAn environmental health officer conjured up an image of a person in a suit, carrying a clipboard and talking like some dreary, faceless bureaucrat. That was how TV writers saw them at the time. It was hardly an image to inspire readers, was it?

So I gave Kent a past as a hunt saboteur and environmental protestor, who chained himself to trees and bulldozers to stop developers destroying the countryside he loved. This ensured he had as many enemies as he had supporters, offering plenty of storylines for the future.

Without thinking, I knew he would live in an animal sanctuary, confirming his dedication to the natural world.

While I doubt if he’s anyone’s idea of a detective, to me he’s a hero for today. He’s an ordinary person who solves the most complex and difficult murders I can dream up.

This posed another challenge – how would an EHO solve a murder? Let’s be honest, during my long career, no one has ever walked into the council offices and asked me to investigate a murder.

I’ll admit I’ve wanted to murder many awkward members of the public, councillors and restaurateurs and publicans over the years. Luckily, I can now do that in my novels.

Finally it came to me – disguise a murder as a fatal work accident. Kent Fisher goes in to investigate with the police. They pass the investigation to him and he uncovers a murder.

Simple.

But no one believes him, of course, so he has to solve it himself.

It led me to the highly original title of No Accident, which was traditionally published in June 2016.

A fresh approach to the traditional murder mystery

Thoroughly modern, with contemporary themes about protecting wildlife and the environment, Kent Fisher was like no other detective out there. Whether that’s a good or bad thing depends on how much you like the traumatised police inspectors with pen-pushing superiors that seem to dominate crime fiction these days.

What I hadn’t anticipated was the part the characters and backstory would play in the hearts and minds of readers. I simply set out to build a world around Kent and fill it with strong, engaging characters that would impact on his life and work.

HarveyAnd that’s before we get to the rescue dog he adopted. Named Columbo after Kent’s favourite TV detective, the West Highland white terrier would become a firm favourite with readers and reviewers.

With his personal life as complex as the murders Kent solved, the story drew in people who didn’t normally read crime. Readers cared about these people, about this world Kent lived in, as much as they enjoyed trying to solve the murders.

But that’s something for another post…


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He weaves a mystery that can match any of our best thriller writers

In another wonderful review for No Love Lost, Colin Garrow says

Robert Crouch manages to create a delightfully complex plot with twists and turns galore and more suspects than you can shake a doggy snack at. The plot is his best yet and kept me enthralled from start to finish. With a writing style that includes witty one-liners and precise plotting, he weaves a mystery that can match any of our best thriller writers.

 

 

Review of No Remorse

My thanks to Chelle at Curled Up with a Good Book for another lovely review. So pleased you enjoyed the story.

‘The plot is brilliant – I hadn’t foreseen what was going to come at the end! Robert takes us on a complex and intriguing journey with the wicked twists and turns that I have come to expect, and love, from Roberts writing.  No Remorse takes you on a bit of an emotional rollercoaster – my feelings towards some of the characters changed numerous times!’

Bed of Bones by Cheryl Bradshaw

30th March 2020.   5 stars.

Anyone who follows my reviews will know I’m a big fan of this series, featuring private detective Sloane Monroe. Bed of Bones is the fifth book in the series and has Sloane working with other enforcement agencies to track down a serial killer.

It starts with a nail bomb in a cinema where a film is about to be shown, fictionalising a tragic incident in the town’s past. The woman who made the film is missing. Soon other women connected with the film go missing and the race is on to find out why before he strikes again.

Like all good protagonists, Sloane has her own personal issues to deal with, namely Giovanni, her on off boyfriend who was injured in the blast. This puts her in the thick of things once more as she tries to work out the connections with the past to track down the present day killer. Then there’s Cade, a sheriff with more than a passing interest in Sloane’s well-being to add further complications.

It all adds up to a smooth and exciting read, filled with sharp observations, wry humour and a determined detective who’s as smart as she is sassy. Sloane’s direct approach often puts her at risk as she slowly unpicks the mystery, leading to a thrilling and tragic climax.

While this story, like all the others, can be read as a standalone, you’ll enjoy it far more if you read the series from the beginning, starting with Black Diamond Death. (Check out my review of this story here.) Sloane has her problems, as you’ll discover, but this only deepens the character and adds another interesting layer to the backstory.

If like me, you prefer private detective stories to police procedurals, I would recommend this book and the series.

Description

Sometimes even the deepest, darkest secrets find their way to the surface.

Thirteen-year-old Willie Compton and his younger brother Leonard stumble upon a mine shaft while hiking the hills of Park City, Utah. A Slinky Leonard’s been flipping back and forth between his hands slips through his fingers. Leonard bolts forward and reaches out to grab it, but he slips, then he falls into the shaft.

Bed of Bones tells a tale of murder, shining a big, bold light on Park City’s tragic past. A past that’s about to revisit the present.

Bed of Bones by Cheryl Bradshaw

Interview on Fictionophile

My thanks to Lynne LeGrow for some interesting and entertaining questions.

‘There’s nothing better than knowing others enjoy the story you wrote. That’s why I write.’

Read the full interview here.

 

No Mercy – Interview on Books Teacup and Reviews

My thanks to Yesha for some intriguing and enjoyable questions.

‘The challenge is invariably the same with all my books – keeping it fresh and credible, which isn’t easy when your main character isn’t a police officer or private detective.’

Read the full interview of Books Teacup and Reviews.

 

The challenge of writing a series

‘The Kent Fisher murder mysteries are a long way from the cop with a trauma, which seems to be one of the current trends in crime fiction. They’re traditional murder mysteries, driven by both character and plot to entertain readers.’

If you want to find out more about why I write the Kent Fisher mysteries, you can read the guest post at Between the Lines

My thanks to Cathy at Between the Lines for letting me spread the word.

 

I never met a sleuth like Kent before

says Stefanie of The Magic of Wor(l)ds in her review of No Mercy.

‘The plot and characters are well developed and are certainly entertaining throughout as there is, among others, some great humour in this book.
Everything also sounds and feels realistic, which makes it a great whodunit in a kind of familiar, though also unique way, as I never met a sleuth like Kent before.’

To read Stefanie’s full review

To purchase a copy of No Mercy from Amazon