Summer Reads

What I read on my summer holidays by Cavan Scott, aged 50 ¼.

Summer Reads

Just over a week ago, the Scott family got back from holiday in Tenerife which was absolutely wonderful (although news has since hit that the island has been hit by devastating wildfires that seem to have been started deliberately, which is heartbreaking to hear!)

The above was our view for most of the week, as our daughters requested a relaxing pool holiday and I was only too happy to oblige. A week lying by a pool doing very little but reading? Honestly, it sounded like heaven and it was, the first time in too long that I’ve kicked back and switched off, especially as last year’s vacation in California was scuppered by muggins here getting Covid!

Now that we’re back home (and deep back in work), I thought I’d share which books I whiled my time away with, some of which have been out for a while, while a couple are coming attractions.

Pour yourself a piña colada and let’s go!


By Mallory O’Meara. Hanover Square Press (2019)

Fact number one: It won’t be long before I turn every conversation to Universal or Hammer Horror. Fact number two: I have a lot of friends who do the same. It was therefore not a surprise that a SDCC meal with George Mann, Kristin Baver and Jordan Hembrough soon turned into a discussion of our favourite Universal monsters1. Kristin immediately chimed in with ‘The Creature’ and started talking about a book I didn’t know existed: The Lady from the Black Lagoon by Mallory O’Meara. I was so glad she did. I downloaded the Kindle edition for the flight home and loved every single minute. 

If you don’t know, Micilent Patrick was the woman who designed the iconic Gillman and yet has remained an enigma, mainly due to an attempt to overwrite her claim on Gilly’s design by a jealous and overbearing boss who wanted the honour for himself. Author and horror filmmaker O’Meara chronicles her quest to discover the real tale of Milicent, a woman who constantly changed her name and backstory, and lived a glamorous and often heartbreaking life.

O’Meara weaves her own story through her search for Milicent, highlighting the uncomfortable truths of what it’s like being a woman in horror with candid honesty and humour. But first and foremost, Milicent is quite rightly the star, finally receiving her due in the monster hall of fame. A must-read for every monster kid!

Oh, and make sure you read the footnotes: they’re hilarious!

Visit the author’s website


By John Scalzi. Tor UK. (21st September 2023)

Okay, while Lady From the Black Lagoon was technically a pre-holiday read, John Scalzi’s latest romp was the first book I yanked from the suitcase to read around the pool. Readers, I chose wisely. Starter Villain proved to be the perfect vacation read.

Simply put, Scalzi’s novel is fun. Fun, fun, fun, fun. The press release accompanying the ARC described the book as a sci-fi caper. I’d personally categorise it as spi-fy, a light and wonderfully engaging slice of escapism for fans of the campier side of James Bond and Mission: Impossible. And I don’t mean that as a slight. Anyone who knows me also knows my love for Sir Roger Moore. But, unlike the exploits of 007 or even Ethan Hunt, Starter Villain focuses on a pantheon of over-the-top baddies rather dashing heroes when substitute teacher Charlie inherits his not-so-dear departed uncle’s criminal empire. And yes, that comes complete with a volcano lair, intelligent dolphins (!) and membership into a cabal of world-dominating despots.

What follows is an affectionate romp full of twists and turns, deceit and double-crosses. Scalzi walks a clever line as Charlie is plopped into the murky world of international villainy and yet is never tainted by it, trying to stay one step ahead of bad guys that don’t think twice about unleashing hell. It’s witty, charming and more than a little whimsical, but still has enough teeth to shock.

Listen with a John Barry soundtrack playing in the background and you won’t go wrong.

Visit the publisher’s website


By John Brownlow, Hachette (2022)

Every holiday needs a slick seat-of-your-pants thriller and Agent Seventeen was mine this year.

The titular anti-hero is the world’s top assassin, a freelance hitman with no allegiance to any security service, performing jobs that keep nations’ hands ‘clean.’ No one can touch him and the moment someone can, he will be killed and his killer will be dubbed ‘Eighteen’. In other words, to be the best, you have to beat the best and - for now - Seventeen is the cream of the crop… until he gets a job that changes everything.

The chapters are short - perfect for a poolside read - propelling you relentlessly forward with a masterful mix of killer cliffhangers and percussive action, the latter sprinkled with just the right amount of technical detail needed to sell Seventeen’s ingenious but often brutal world. And however bad - or bloody - events get, you never stop rooting for Seventeen himself, even at the beginning when he’s cock of the walk, believing his own hype and heading for a fall. The reasons for this are manifold. First up is the character’s sheer competence. You believe he’s capable because there is an analytical mind behind the flashy cars and realistic tradecraft. Seventeen isn’t a blunt instrument like Bond. Yes, he can fight - boy, can he fight - but there’s something almost Sherlockian about his deductive and observational powers, which are tempered by an emotional depth that deepens as the novel progresses. Brownlow expertly provides both the tragic backstory and moments of vulnerability needed to stop Seventeen from becoming an unfeeling, unsympathetic killing machine. This is no Jack Reacher. Seventeen may be the best, but when he’s hit, the punches hurt (not to mention the bullets, blades and the ever-growing pile of bodies!) It’s not the explosions that will kill you in Seventeen’s line of work… it’s developing a soul.

The sequel - Assassin Eighteen - is already out and I’m currently wondering if I swing a second poolside holiday to read it!

Oh, I enjoyed the wry little hat-tip to John Wick too!

Visit the publisher’s website


By James Kennedy, Quirk (August 2023)

There’s something particularly satisfying about reading something as creepy as hell in 30+ degrees sunshine. The disconnect amps up the uncanny, like watching a horror film in a darkened room and then pulling the curtains to find broad daylight outside. And Bride of the Tornado is definitely creepy. In fact, I think you can confidently say it’s downright unsettling. Beyond that, definitions for this masterclass in weird fiction are hard to pin down. When my pal Jamie of Black Crow PR sent me the ARC she slipped a postcard that simply said: ‘You’ll love this one. Batshit!’

She wasn’t wrong.

In the ARC’s introduction, publisher Jhanteigh Kupihea cites both Twin Peaks and Stephen King’s The Mist as comparable stories. I certainly got that, although I’d also felt the tug of Jordan Peele’s Nope when dropped into an isolated town preyed upon by tornadoes that act more like predatory animals than forces of nature, creatures that can only be tamed by a child raised outside the town to protect those that he can never meet, the Tornado Killer.

Things start to unravel as our unnamed narrator, herself something of an outcast, starts to fantasise about their mysterious saviour, convinced that the boy is watching her. Throw in unsettling rituals, hideous dead-eyed smiles and an overriding sense of being trapped and you have a wildly original and haunting coming-of-age story. Bride of the Tornado couldn’t have been more different from the other books I read on holiday, but has stayed with me long after we touched down on the return trip!

Visit the publisher’s website

So those were my summer reads (although summer is far from over no matter what the weather suggests! My current read is Chuck Wendig’s Black River Orchard which I’m sure I’ll talk about more when I’m done, but I’m loving some 100-pages in!)

But what about you? What have you been reading this summer? Let us know in the comments!

  1. My own answer changes depending on the day. Frankenstein’s Monster is obviously up there (thanks mainly to Bride), as is the Creature, but I always have a soft spot for the Wolf Man. Why oh why isn’t there as much Wolf Man merch as the other monsters, eh? Poor old Larry. Forever cursed!