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The Unsolvable Murder

Have you heard the one about the writer who couldn’t solve the murder in his first crime novel?

Yeah, that was me.

At the time, it was the kind of luck that seemed to dog my writing career. That’s how it felt after years of rejection slips from publishers and agents.

To overcome this, I filled a binder with ideas, character notes, settings and a detailed chapter by chapter synopsis of my first murder mystery novel. I couldn’t wait to start writing, following the plan I’d mapped out.

Everything was going fine until about two thirds of the way through, when a problem stopped me in my tracks.

I couldn’t work out how to solve the murder.

Don’t ask me how this happened because I don’t know.

It looked like I’d created the perfect murder. Despite repeated checks with my synopsis, I couldn’t work out how my sleuth would solve the murder.

It turned out to be the first of three ordeals I had to overcome in the quest to publish my first crime novel.

The second came later, after I’d set the novel to one side, figuring my subconscious would work everything out and present me with a solution.

It didn’t.

I had to give up writing.

You could say it was my fault for giving up smoking. Without cigarettes, I couldn’t coax my brain into writing. Put simply, I didn’t have any desire to write.

I could have started smoking again, but with a murder I couldn’t solve, what was the point. Besides, I didn’t intend to start smoking again.

Logic told me leave things for a week or two. You’ll either be craving a cigarette so much, you’ll start smoking once more, or your writing mojo will return.

It did return, thankfully. But it took nine months.

My subconscious still wasn’t playing ball, and I didn’t know what to write.

Ironically, I was asked to do a radio interview about the ban on smoking in public places. Talk about rubbing salt into the wound. But the interview went well and promised to make an interesting blog, if I could overcome a few issues first.

As an environmental health officer, entrusted with protecting public health, I had to take care. I couldn’t go writing about cases or inspections I’d carried out.

What if I used the sleuth from my murder mystery to narrate my blog? Like me, Kent Fisher’s an environmental health officer, so I could remain anonymous while he had some fun.

I called it Fisher’s Fables and let him mock the establishment, senior management and some of the decisions they made. Within a few posts, he came alive as a character. I surrounded him by the characters from my stalled novel to complete the team.

Buoyed by this new writing, I returned to my murder mystery, writing it in the style of Fisher’s Fables, which meant a good dollop of humour. It took a lot of work and revision, but slowly a new novel emerged from the chrysalis of the old.

If I could only solve the murder, my dream of becoming a published author could become a reality.

Then luck offered me a helping hand.

Food hygiene rating sticker

The owner of a local tearoom contacted me because he was unhappy with the food hygiene rating he was given after an inspection. Aware he was also a writer, I arranged to visit.

We soon resolved the problem and started to talk about writing. He wrote historical naval fiction and told me one the people at his publishers was setting up his own company.

Would I like an introduction?

“Of course,” I said, forgetting all about the unsolved murder. I didn’t mention it when the publisher emailed me from the USA, asking for the first three chapters and a detailed synopsis.

By the end of the weekend, I had three updated chapters and a synopsis that avoided revealing how the murder was solved.

I expected the publisher to take a week or two to respond. Either he would reject my story or want to know how the murder was solved.

Half an hour after sending the email, he replied with an offer to publish and a contract to sign.

I couldn’t believe it.

Over the years, I’d dreamt of a publisher offering me a contract. When I finally got my wish, I was stuck with a novel I couldn’t complete.

If I told him I couldn’t solve the murder, my credibility would hit the floor. I’d be known as the crime writer who couldn’t write crime.

As far as I know, there’s no Golden Dagger award for this category.

I refused to sign the contract, knowing I might not get another chance.

When asked why, I said I needed another six months to bring him the best novel I could write. To my surprise, he agreed.

My confidence and self-belief went through the roof. I worked out how to solve the murder and submitted the revised novel, which was accepted.

Later that year, I signed the contract and No Accident, the first Downland Murder Mystery, was published on 19th June 2016 by Penmore Press, eight years ago today.

Looking back, I still wonder how No Accident ever made it to publication.

Perhaps my refusal to admit defeat and abandon the story saw me through. I loved No Accident because it was original, distinctive and paid homage to the murder mysteries I wanted to emulate.

No Accident covers

Eight years on, there are ten novels in the Downland Murder Mystery series.

Thankfully, none of them have posed the problems No Accident went through. But without the determination and perseverance to solve the unsolvable murder, No Accident would never have made it to publication.


If you’d like to find out more about No Accident or the Downland Murder Mystery series, please follow the link and let me show you more about them. You can also join my Readers Group for more exclusive content about the novels, the characters and my writing. Simply add your details below and join the rest of us.

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