Tourism figures are not adjusted according to the size of the country visited, but even so I was surprised by the findings from last year. Topping the list is still France, followed by the US and China, Spain, Italy, Turkey, then the UK and Germany (!). Rather than massively increasing tourism, the Olympics actually put a dampener on figures – they were 7% down – but the British spend far more overseas than the other way around, creating a deficit.
Did the endless government warnings about overcrowded trains put people off? Are tourism and sport non-compatible? It’s hard to say, but on Tuesday night this week I headed into town and couldn’t get on the first two trains because they were packed with tourists. London’s avoidable hotspots remain the same – the Piccadilly line from Harrods to Holborn is the worst, although I am mystified as to why anyone would visit Knightsbridge.
This morning I attempted to board three trains, no chance in the rush hour, and sheer weight of numbers ending up forcing me to another station. Yet last night the West End was deserted – at any one time it’s possible for factors to change the number of people in London by vast amounts. That it doesn’t, and nobody gets trampled to death, is down to the law of averages.
This was the driving force behind my first Bryant & May outing, ‘Rune’, which was predicated on the idea that the law could be upset by an external force, causing unlikely disasters to occur. This ‘difficult second novel’ fared poorly. It was dark, pumped full of my research results, wayward. I could have called the book ‘Bryant & May And Sods’ Law’. Back then the detectives investigated more supernatural cases, appearing in four early books before I retired them.
When I thought about their reinvention, I realised what needed taking out. I had been so excited by the whole idea of tackling the crime genre that I’d thrown in everything but the kitchen sink. Having too much enthusiasm can be as bad as having too little. This refining process is still ongoing. You listen to readers and discover if there’s a common theme in what they like or dislike, then adapt. ‘Rune’ was neither one thing nor the other – not quite a crime novel, not quite a supernatural thriller. Despite this, it reprinted several times with different covers. I’ve learned my lesson now, and write in different strands of books instead of trying to cram everything into one.