Monday, January 07, 2013

Heat Wave by Richard Castle

If you read my review of season one of Castle, then it's no surprise to you that I recently picked up the tie-in book, Heat Wave. I've found the writing on the show to be some of the best I've seen on television in a long time, and a great evolution of the police procedural format for a more modern and connected era.

When I heard that they actually are releasing the books written by Richard Castle in the series, I put the first one on reserve at my library immediately. First, I have to commend them for the sheer dedication to the fiction that they show with this book. Everything from the front cover to the dedication is exactly as seen on the show. The author quotes are, of course, from the member of Castle's mystery writer's poker club.

The author photo and bio are the same as the show, and in the end there are only one or two tiny nods to the idea that it isn't written by THE Richard Castle. I assumed that the real writer of the books would be an open secret, that the ghost writer would of course be generally known and have been long since found out by the Castle fandom. But it turns out that isn't the case. There are great theories, and I've read at least one blog article that breaks down their idea so convincingly that I'm pretty sure they are right. But at the end of the day, everybody seems almost happy not knowing, and that's actually also a little refreshing.

In the universe of the show, Castle is a NYT Best Selling Author multiple times over. Heat Wave sold so many copies he instantly was signed for a three book deal and the movie rights were picked up. While the show pokes a bit of fun at Castle's books being pulp novels and a bit cheesy, Castle himself is such a devoted fan of the art of the story and the written word that you imagine that he's actually a much better author than he's given credit for, and that it's just that he writes genre fiction so he gets insulted by the literary crowd.

At least, that's what I thought until I read Heat Wave. There's no mistake at all that this is a cheesy pulp novel. And if that's what you're looking for, then that's great. The mystery itself is pretty solid, and the twists and turns are worthy of the show itself. Since the novel is a barely disguised rip-off of the real people/tv show characters (on purpose) it does fit well into that universe in a lot of ways. The characters based on Ryan and Esposito, for example, are just as funny and just as charming.

It's Detective Heat and Jameson Rook where I run into trouble. Because everything else about the novel is so close to the show's characters, those two get a little hard to believe. Rook is so clearly Castle bragging about himself and acting conceited, which is a character trait that is balanced out in the show and he has largely grown out of so it's hard to read. It's almost like I'm getting embarrassed for the fictional writer who fictionally wrote this fictional version of his fictional self.

But Detective Heat is not really Detective Beckett at all. I get that she's not exactly supposed to be, she's not just inspired by Beckett, she's Castle's daydream of what he wants Beckett to be. And in Season One, that's going to be a very different girl than season five, which I'm watching now. First, because he had so much less information to work with, and second because he hadn't actually grown as much as a character. So Nikki Heat is just very stereotypical and not as much fun as Beckett.

I think that if I had read this book when I was in between seasons one and two, then I may have liked it a lot more. But I think as readers we're supposed to be picturing the characters, that's the reason for staying so in universe with it. And in universe, I just don't know that this book is everything that it should be or that the characters are as well crafted as Castle would write them. I'm hoping that as the books advance, the characters will grow in similar ways as they did in the show, and that this disconnect I feel between the two is just because I've gotten so much further than when the book was "written."