Authors reveal the images that inspired 100,000 words

FICTION

PHOTO

About the author...

For over 30 years, Robert Crouch worked in and around the South Downs. He left environmental health in March 2016 to focus on writing. In November 2016, he published, Fisher’s Fables, a collection of humorous blogs that used Kent Fisher to fictionalise his experiences as an environmental health officer and manager. Robert is currently editing the second Kent Fisher mystery, No Bodies, for publication in 2017.

Sometimes, you can’t see for looking. For years I visited East Dean village, which nestles among the rolling hills of the South Downs. Most of these visits related to my work as an environmental health officer, inspecting the kitchens of the Tiger Inn, or one of the restaurants that overlooked the village green. 

With the magnificent chalk cliffs of the Seven Sisters only a mile away, most of my walking took me along the coast. Here, while the wind whipped across the Downs, I imagined life and death battles on the edge of the cliffs between the good guys and the bad. I pictured car chases along the narrow roads that dipped and meandered through the hills from East Dean to the coast.

Then one day, strolling across the village green after a long walk, I noticed a small blue plaque on the wall of a flint cottage and gasped in surprise. In all the years I’d been coming to this village, how had I missed this plaque?

 

Sherlock Holmes retired to this house to keep bees.

Suddenly, all my vague ideas about writing a crime novel crystallised into a moment of inspiration. What if I created a detective who lived in this house? What if he wasn’t a detective, but became one because of the famous former resident? What if he was an environmental health officer, who started to solve crimes after a suspicious death in the village?

From these excited ideas, Kent Fisher emerged to become a wisecracking environmental health officer with a passion for the South Downs. While he fights to protect the landscape and its wildlife from those who want to develop and diversify to make profit, his main interest is the animal sanctuary he runs in his spare time. He lives in a converted barn at the sanctuary with his West Highland white terrier, Columbo, named after his favourite detective.

Kent makes his first appearance in No Accident, published in 2016, where he investigates a work accident, uncovering a complex web of lies, deception and murder, which threatens everything and everyone he holds dear. 

It’s a modern and irreverent take on the traditional whodunit, set in and around the South Downs that inspired it. The second novel, No Bodies, which I hope to publish this year, makes further use of the Downland close to East Dean. While the third novel, No Chance, is nothing more than ideas at the moment, I want to bring Kent back to East Dean, where he first came to life in my imagination.

Sometimes, when I’m walking or running around East Dean, I wonder how different life might have been had I not spotted the blue plaque on the wall.

Thank you, Robert, for the insight into your writing world!