The Dark Side of Fun in the Sun

Welcome to the Distress Signals Blogging Bonanza! What’s that, you’re wondering? Well, you can either go and read this post or read the next sentence. In a nutshell: my debut thriller Distress Signals – think: eerily similar disappearances from a cruise ship in the Med – was out in paperback in the UK and Ireland on January 5 and hits the U.S.A. on February 2, and every day in between I’m going to blog as per the schedule at the bottom of this post.

Back on schedule today with one I made elsewhere. Back when Distress Signals was first released in May, I wrote a blog post for author Mark Hill about the dark side of the places people like to go on holiday: hotels, campsites and cruise ships. Having worked in two of them I’ve seen behind the curtain of your romantic city break or family fortnight in France, and as you know I plotted murder and other mayhem on the third.

I loved the years I spent working in hospitality, but it wasn’t all fun in the sun. In fact, it was almost never fun in the sun, at least not for me – and that was the problem. In hotels and resorts, you work hard and you work long hours, but the guests and customers you interact with aren’t, for the most part, working at all. They’re all on holiday.

Back in 2005 I worked as a campsite courier on the Western Mediterranean coast of France. Each morning I would pull on my uniform – a fetching green shorts and red T-shirt combination that made me look like one of Santa’s elves only dressed for a warmer climate – and stumble out of my “live tent” (live as in I live here, not live music), heading for the shower block. The sky would be blue, the early morning sun warm and glorious and, en route, I’d pass family after family sitting on the decks of their mobile homes, sipping coffee and pulling apart flaky croissants fresh from the campsite’s bakery.

On my way back, I’d pass these same families heading for the pool or the beach, lugging inflatables, towels and parasols. Ahead of me was typically five or six hours of cleaning the mobile homes and tents that had been vacated that day (in thirty-degree heat), and then another four or five hours of checking new customers into them after that. It could be depressing.

The actual tent I lived in

There was a darker side to being “on site” too. I’d been on numerous self-drive/campsite holidays in France growing up, both with the brand I now found myself working for and others, and I’d always loved them. The adventure of the mobile home or tent; the freedom to roam around the campsite; the fun hours spent at the swimming pool or in the playground or at the Kids’ Club. As a courier, my perspective was very different. The tents we lived in were dirty and broken, as was the “live area” in which they’d been erected. (Scabies was a known scourge on several sites.) As an aspiring crime writer, I always did what I called my Serial Killer Check whenever I stayed somewhere new: I counted how many locked doors a potential serial killer would have between him and me while I slept. On that campsite there were no doors at all, only zips. Anyone could come into or go out of your tent in the night.

Couriers frequently got themselves into trouble: taken to hospital in an ambulance with alcohol poisoning, or to the police station in a squad car because they’d been caught attempting to abscond with the petty cash box. Most were hired straight out of school and had never been away from home before. They barely knew how to look after themselves, let alone the customers… READ THE REST ON MARKHILLAUTHOR.COM.


Remember: there’s a super sexy hardcover edition of Distress Signals (the American one, out February 2) up for grabs, signed to you from me. To enter, simply leave a comment on this post or any post published here between January 5 and February 2. One entry per post, so comment on more than one and increase your chances. Open globally. Good luck!

7 thoughts on “The Dark Side of Fun in the Sun

  1. Andy Blatchford says:

    May the Force be with you. Battling the Dark Side is a continuous task for all authors. The memories of times in tents and hospitality emporiums, for the staff these can be vivid and dire, but look between the lines and the experiences can bear fruit for the future life. Live life to the full and grab your pleasures where you can and the force will be with you when you need it.
    Now is the time harness those memories to overcome the forces of evil, make a profit from it, and create new successes.
    More power to your elbow and put your procrastination to one side and complete the review of Book 2.

  2. katielookingforward says:

    I don’t think America has a similar tent rental option for family vacations, other than the state parks, but I think it is so cool that you tried it! No way would I have wanted to sign up for that. I need a door/actual roof.

  3. cherylsterling1955 says:

    Thank you for this behind-the-scenes look at the hospitality industry. My son worked on an island resort (Michigan, the anti-tropical climate) and basically got room and board. He and his girlfriend (now wife) were promised bonuses if they stayed past Labor Day, but left early because of the conditions.

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