Mark Terry

Monday, January 10, 2011

Naked Heat by Richard Castle

January 10, 2011
Although I don't watch a lot of TV, a friend of mine suggested I'd really like the TV show CASTLE. So a few months ago I watched an episode on and found that I did enjoy it. Because it's on Monday nights at 10:00 PM, which is past my bedtime (sigh), I watch the new episodes on Hulu and I went back to the first season and have been purchasing them on iTunes and watching them consecutively. I'm about halfway through the 2nd season and I'm still a fan.

For those of you unfamiliar with the show, Richard Castle is an enormously successful mystery novelist (played by Nathan Fillion) who ends his very successful crime series starring Derrek Storm. He gets involved with a murder case and is instantly attracted to the detective, Kate Beckett (played by Stana Katic). Using his friendship with the mayor, Castle wrangles a situation where he gets to shadow Beckett and eventually they have a love/hate relationship and he helps solve crimes.

The mysteries in the show are pretty solid, but the reason for the show's success and appeal is the relationship between Castle and Beckett. There's a ton of sexual tension and a lot of charm and humor. Castle is an interesting character in an unexpected way because if it weren't for Nathan Fillion's charm, he'd be a real asshole. (Supposedly part of the reason the name Castle was chosen was because if you say it fast and no one's paying attention, it sounds like "asshole." Really). He's cute and often acts like a 12-year-old, and is given to inappropriate outbursts of enthusiasm, among other things. On the other hand, he has a teenager daughter, Alexis, and it's safe to say that they have the most mature father-daughter relationship on TV. Castle, despite his flaws, is an excellent father. Anyway, Castle, inspired by Beckett, starts another series featuring NYC Detective Nikki Heat. He describes her to Beckett as "really smart, really good at her job ... and sorta slutty."

In a fairly clever, but occasionally mind-bending bit of synergy, Hyperion is bringing out books featuring Nikki Heat written by Richard Castle. Naked Heat is the second book. My oldest son bought it for me for Christmas. And I read it.

So. What did I think?

Okay, first, Nikki Heat has a relationship with a writer, Jameson Rook (Rook = Castle, get it?). Rook is a journalist of the Doug Stanton, Sebastian Junger stripe--i.e., he writes celebrity profiles, adventure journalism pieces, and he's very, very big--Pulitzer Prize winning. In the TV show, Castle and Beckett never have sex. In the books, Heat and Rook have sex. A lot. And it's kinky (largely inferred). Keep in mind, this creates a fairly amusing synergy with the TV show, because you can view the books as fantasy's of Castle's. (And no, I don't know who actually writes the books, it's a fairly well-kept secret. It seems likely that it's Tom Straw--NOT Michael Connelly, James Patterson or Stephen Cannell, all who have appeared on the show as poker buddies of Richard Castle, but I'm not going to go into that here).

Is it good? Yeah, pretty good. The writing is actually quite good, nicely punchy with some terrific turns of phrase.

Plot. This threw me for a while, because it seemed initially to be a regurgitation of one of the TV episodes: a gossip columnist is murdered, then, as they're taking the body to the morgue the ambulance gets carjacked and the body stolen. But what I realized as I continued to read the book was that the author did something I thought was fairly clever--he/she took the basic plot of one of the episodes, then mixed in elements from all sorts of other episodes. Which, when you think about it, would probably be what Richard Castle, were he a real person, would do if he were seeking inspiration from a dozen actual murder cases.

The focus of the book really isn't the same focus as the TV show--i.e., the TV show is about Castle and Beckett, primarily Castle, and their relationship; the book is primarily about Nikki Heat and much less about the relationship between her and Rook, although it heats up toward the end of the book. I couldn't decide if that was completely intentional--after all, Castle as a character is enough of an egomaniac that he might make the books more about himself, except, one thing Castle is portrayed as is a real professional writer who's interested in the story and what the reader wants (despite the fact he's rarely actually seen writing).

Anyway, did I like the book? Yes. Was it a great book? No, probably not. Do I think it would have become a bestseller on its own without the TV tie-in connection? No, I do not.

Is it worth reading? Sure, if you're into the TV show or you like reasonably solid police procedurals.


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