Happy Sunday my lovelies! I hope you have a fantastic day planned with lots of rest!! Today I have a brilliant interview with Robert Crouch. We talk about learning to read from a Sunday newspaper, the mysterious disappearing and reappearing wedding ring, his gorgeous dog Harvey (see the beautiful picture below!) and his most recent book No More Lies……
Crime fiction, murder mystery
Tell us a bit about yourself:
I’m an environmental health officer turned author, who loves creating puzzles as much he loves solving them. Inspired by Miss Marple, Inspector Morse and Kinsey Millhone (the 3Ms), I combined these loves to create the Kent Fisher murder mystery series – traditional whodunits set in today’s world.
What inspired you to start writing?
Like many authors, I’m an avid reader. I started when I was about four. I would sit on my father’s lap as he read the Sunday newspaper. The headlines fascinated me, so I asked him what they were and what they meant and he taught me to read.
Words have always interested me more than pictures. Books can conjure up magical, imaginary worlds and teach you so much. With my imagination stimulated, it was a natural progression to write stories.
How many books have you written and published?
Five books to date. No Accident, the first mystery, was published in 2016. No Mercy, the fifth, is scheduled for release in January 2020.
Which book, out of all the books you have written, is your favourite and why?
The latest one is usually my favourite as I enjoying discovering how my characters will develop. But as that book’s currently being edited, I’m choosing No Remorse, the third Kent Fisher mystery, which has a special place in my heart.
I started writing with a single line of dialogue and continued from there with no idea where the characters would take me or how the story would turn out. I simply wrote a chapter at a time, filling the story with cryptic clues and puzzles. While it owes much to my love of Agatha Christie, No Remorse is as close as I can get to my favourite author, Sue Grafton, who wrote the Kinsey Millhone murder mysteries.
How do you choose the names of your characters?
The type of character I’m creating suggests certain first names. These are often names I like. I’ll look up the meaning of the name to see if it fits the character. Then I select a suitable surname to complement this, which adds to the picture of the character I’m creating. The name has to sound right, which is often a matter of instinct. Sometimes I try out a number of variations until I get one which feels right.
Graveyards sometimes supply an interesting name or two. I found the name Witherington on a grave in the church where Shakespeare was buried in Stratford on Avon. This became Colonel Witherington in my second novel, No Bodies.
I also like to pay tribute to my favourite fictional detectives and often use their surnames. I have a Frost, Goodman, Holmes, Watson, and my favourite, Columbo, who is Kent Fisher’s West Highland white terrier.
Which of your characters would you want to be stranded on an island with, and why?
I adore Kelly, who’s the personal assistant of Kent Fisher’s boss and an absolute hoot. She looks like blousy barmaid with her high heels, short skirts and tight tops, which fools most of her male colleagues and endears her to more senior ones.
In reality, she’s smart, sassy, independent and nobody’s fool. She gets to deliver some of my best and funniest lines I write. But nobody knows anything about her, which is ironic when you consider how much she knows about everyone else.
Life would never be dull with Kelly around and it would be fun to discover what’s really beneath her disguise.
Who is your favourite author and which of their books is your favourite, and why?
It has to be the late Sue Grafton, who wrote the Alphabet Murders, featuring private eye, Kinsey Millhone. I started reading them in the 1980’s, finishing with Y is for Yesterday this year.
As it’s so long since I read the books, I can’t recall many of the stories. So I went back and read A is for Alibi earlier this year and the opening grabbed me in a way few books do. (It was like meeting up with an old friend you hadn’t seen for some time.) The style, approach, characterisation and writing inspired me to write murder mystery novels and you should be able to see echoes of Sue Grafton’s influence in my stories.
What is the first thing you can remember writing?
I wrote lots of stories as a child, but the first one that stands out is a short story for a national competition when I was 12 or 13. I had to write a 500 word action adventure story for Action Man. The first prize was £500 of Action Man toys and accessories, which in 1972 was a lot.
Many months after submitting the entry there was a knock on the front door. A man stood there with this enormous box, addressed to me. I’m sure you can guess what was inside.
What other jobs have you done other than being an author?
I’m an environmental health officer by profession. I started when I left school at the age of 18 and 39 years later I left my job to write full time.
If you could get in a time machine and had one chance to travel, where would you go? (Backwards or forwards!)
I’d rather be in the present because I live in the here and now. The past has never held much appeal, but it does offer some intriguing mysteries that I would love to investigate.
Top of the list would be the disappearance of Lord Lucan. It would be fascinating to travel back to 1974 and be a fly on the wall in the Lucan house to discover exactly what happened and where he fled to.
If you could have one conversation with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
It would be my father. He died when I was eight, so I have few memories of him. I know he taught me to read at an early age, but I only have a few photographs and his RAF service book. His death left a huge hole in my life and I still miss him, so it would be wonderful to find out what he was really like, what mattered to him and what advice he would give me.
What are your favourite things to do?
Apart from reading and writing, I love running. It keeps me healthy and gives me lots of time and opportunities to generate ideas, think about my work in progress and improve characters and plots.
Walking and exploring the South Downs, especially with my wife, Carol, and Harvey, our West Highland white terrier is always a joy, especially when we stop for lunch at one of the country pubs that feature in my novels.
What is the strangest thing that has ever happened to you?
While Carol and I were at a friend’s house, I noticed my wedding ring was missing from my finger. We turned the living room upside down, looking under the sofa, removing the cushions, scouring the carpet from the front door to the back. We didn’t find the ring and spent the next hour backtracking through the day.
In the end we decided the ring was either lost in the garden or down the local tip, which I’d visited that morning.
Several years later, we were in the garage at home when, out of the corners of our eyes, we both saw something falling. There was a ping as the object hit the concrete. It was my wedding ring. It was no longer smooth, having rough and scratched edges, but it was definitely the ring I’d lost all those years ago.
As we were standing in the middle of the garage, well away from the walls, the ring couldn’t have fallen from a shelf. If the ring had been lying on one of the rafters above our heads, how did it get there? What made it fall? Why was it scratched and rough?
To this day, we can’t explain what happened to my ring or how it suddenly reappeared.
If you could give your younger writing self any advice what would it be?
Trust your instincts and listen to them. Have the confidence to follow them and not worry what others may think or say.
Find your author voice, stop doubting your abilities, and stay positive.
Take a few chances and don’t be afraid to make mistakes.
Name one book you think everyone should read?!
‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ by Harper Lee.
I read it again earlier this year and the injustice and prejudice at the heart of the story still move me to tears. It’s also about the quiet bravery shown by those who stand up against these evils and the changes they can make.
And finally, tell us about your most recent book and where we can find it?
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.
You can read my review of No More Lies here.
Thanks so much Robert for this brilliant interview. I LOVE To Kill a Mockingbird – I read it at school and haven’t read it for years….you’ve definitely inspired me to pick it up again! The incident with your wedding ring is so strange…..I wonder where it had been for all those years, and how it had got there!! And I LOVED No More Lies and am looking forward to reading more from you!
Any questions for Robert lovelies, give him a shout!
Have a wonderful day!