Getting to know the Character with Kent Fisher
Robert Crouch joins me today to take part in my Getting to know the character interview with Kent Fisher
Can you describe your character?
Kent Fisher’s an environmental health officer (EHO) who investigated a fatal work accident and uncovered a murder.
From here, he goes on to become a detective, fitting his investigations around his day job and the running of an animal sanctuary, where he lives with his West Highland white terrier, Columbo. (I’ll leave you to work out who his favourite TV detective might be.)
Kent was described by one reader as ‘intelligent and funny – a powerful combination.’ His outlook on life is somewhat irreverent, and he uses humour to deal with some of the horrific sights and tragedies he encounters. But beneath this façade, he’s a deep, complex and intensely private character who will challenge almost anything he believes to be unjust or unfair, especially if it threatens the environment and wildlife.
He loves puzzles, mysteries and conspiracy theories, and always wanted to solve a murder after he became good friends with a Scenes of Crime Officer from Sussex Police.
His passion and determination bring him into conflict with his superiors, but this is where any similarity to hard-boiled PIs and maverick detective inspectors with failed marriages ends. He’s not a copper or a private investigator, which is perhaps why one book blogger described him as ‘a wonderful creation, unique in crime literature.’
What is his job role and where does he work?
As an EHO, Kent works for his local authority, Downland District Council. It hardly sounds glamorous, but his main role is to protect the public by ensuring food businesses meet food safety and hygiene requirements. He also enforces health and safety standards in the workplace and deals with the control of infectious diseases. All of these feature in the series so far.
He works in a fictional area of East Sussex, known as Downland because a large part of the district is situated within the South Downs National Park. He’s based in a fictional town called Tollingdon, but spends most of his time out and about on the district.
Where did the original idea of Kent come about?
As an EHO by profession, I investigated many workplace accidents over the years as part of my job enforcing health and safety at work standards. While it sounds a little morbid, it occurred to me that a work accident would be the perfect way to disguise a murder. It allowed an EHO to investigate rather than the police, removing forensic and scenes of crime officers from the investigation, making it much more difficult for Kent Fisher to identify the killer.
This was the best and most credible way to have an environmental health officer investigate a murder. Once he solves the murder in No Accident, he becomes a local hero. An old friend of the family immediately asks him to help find his missing wife. This became the basis for the second novel, No Bodies.
What makes him original?
Being an EHO, I guess. EHOs work with the police and other agencies and can get involved in major crimes like people trafficking, unfit meat scams, food fraud and deaths from accidents or food poisoning. We interview, caution and prosecute offenders, so we have the skills to investigate murder. We just don’t have the resources and back up to investigate like the police, but we have extensive networks, good relations with the public and businesses, and people trust us.
All this allows Kent to become a resourceful and formidable part-time detective. It also allows me to give readers an insight into environmental health, which most people know little about.
As Kent Fisher doesn’t spend much of his time investigating murders, I wanted to make sure there was also a strong personal backstory running through the series. This allows me to develop the characters close to him for additional interest. And what happens at work and his daily life often cuts across his investigations, which I hope adds additional depth to the characters and the stories.
What makes him tick?
Kent has a strong sense of justice and fair play, resulting from the lies and suffering he endured during his childhood. He champions the underdog and those who suffer because of ignorance and prejudice.
He’s at his most passionate when defending the environment and protecting wildlife, having spent many years as a protestor and hunt saboteur.
What is his biggest fear?
Commitment, without a doubt. He’s worried about settling down with the wrong woman in case there’s someone better out there. I suspect he’s scared of opening up and letting a woman through his defences. Having felt vulnerable and exposed to ridicule as a child, he doesn’t want to repeat the pain and humiliation he endured.
It means he’s hopeless with women.
If you and your character met in real life, do you think you’d get on?
I hope so as he started out as an extension of me. With each book, he grows apart from me because I’m discovering who he really is. I’m in awe of his courage, single mindedness and willingness to put his life on the line to solve murders and protect the vulnerable.
I’d love to help him run his animal sanctuary too.
Who would you like to see play them if your books were made into a film or TV show?
I honestly don’t know. I’ve refrained from describing Kent in any detail in the books as I think readers like to create their own images of the character.
How many books do you have in the series so far?
No Accident and No Bodies are already published and the third in the series, No Remorse, will be available from 7th May this year.
I’ve also published Fisher’s Fables, which was a humorous blog I wrote for several years about my experiences as an environmental health manager. As I didn’t want to antagonise anyone I worked with, I created a cast of fictional officers and wrote the blog as Kent Fisher. Those characters are now part of the murder mysteries. Without the blog, I’m not sure the series would have taken off, so it’s a useful companion to the series and fun to read.
What’s in store for Kent next?
I’m about to start writing the fourth mystery, No Smoke. To help me focus, I wrote this summary -
‘Detective Inspector Ashley Goodman approaches Kent Fisher with a cold case and a proposition.
The first demands Kent’s specialist knowledge and sleuthing expertise to solve the case of an unidentified murder victim, found buried on a caravan site three years ago.
The second requires Kent to betray someone close in the interests of justice.
With Kent’s loyalties tested to the limit, and a beautiful detective inspector who’s interested in more than solving an old murder, there’s No Smoke without fire.’
Robert Crouch blends his extensive experience as an environmental health officer with inspiration from Sue Grafton, Agatha Christie and Peter James to offer a fresh interpretation of the traditional murder mystery novel.
If you’re partial to a baffling whodunit with a complex twisting plot, engaging characters and a unique amateur detective, the Kent Fisher mysteries may be just what you’re looking for.
Now writing full time, Robert lives with his wife and their West Highland white terrier in Eastbourne. Together they enjoy reading, running and roaming the South Downs and beautiful countryside of the UK.
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Website – http://robertcrouch.co.uk, where you can sign up for monthly updates, offers and insights by joining the Kent Fisher Reader Group.