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A Writer Writes....,
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This review is from: Heat Wave (Nikki Heat) (Paperback)
I'm not a huge fan of tie-in fiction. That's not to say I dislike it, just that I don't actively seek it out when it comes to my reading choices. There are always going to be exceptions to every rule and I think that the writing of one Richard Castle may just be that exception.
For those uninitiated I'll try and explain. Castle is an American television show which features a crime writer, Richard Castle (Nathan Fillion), who assists the police with their cases while shadowing them for book research. He is partnered with a feisty female detective, Kate Beckett (Stana Katic), and their relationship/chemistry is the backbone of the show. The performances are sublime and the show has been justifiably successful. Rather than create tie-fiction that is based on the characters in the show the publishers have taken the innovative approach of producing novels that are written by the lead character. Why not? He is supposed to be a world famous novelist after all. Heat Wave has been name-checked many times in various episodes and it is a fun idea. Fans of the show can now read the novels that Castle has written.
I'm going to work on the assumption that the television show is a known quantity to the reader. Working on that basis, everyone is in going to be in on the joke from page one, and as they read along there will be many knowing smiles. You will spot many references taken directly from the screen version. The success of a novel like this cannot just be judged on the quality of the writing and enjoyment of the story, you also have to factor in the authenticity. Based on what you've already learned as a viewer of the television drama does this feel the way you would expect Castle to write? Personally, I was sold. The sardonic one liners and verbal sparring that I would expect from the character(s) are all present and correct.
What is the best way to describe experience of reading Castle's work? Take everything you know about the TV characters and enhance by a factor of ten. The television version Castle has made no secret that Nikki Heat is an amped up version of his muse, Kate Beckett. Reading the novel it is also blatantly obvious that Jameson Rook is a larger than life take on Richard Castle. All the other characters from the show make an appearance and it is a real treat to read Castle's tweaked caricatures of them.
Whenever the TV show mentions the novel Heat Wave, it made quite clear that Rook and Heat have a physical relationship, which is a definite bit of wish-fulfilment on the fictional author's part. Also, the language used is a bit more adult than you would have experienced from the TV Castle. This doesn't bother me in the slightest, but the more delicate amongst you please take note.
The plot zips along at a brisk pace and there is plenty that will please readers of this solid police drama, as well as fans of the TV show. Perhaps not the most original in places, but it certainly serves the characters well and allows them all to shine. The key thing is that it all sounds and feels exactly the way I would expect it to be. Nikki Heat gets the chance to hunt down the bad guys, and Jameson Rook gets the opportunity to complicate and assist in equal measure.
I do have one minor technical criticism that niggled slightly. It could be just me but I found the text in the book quite small, certainly smaller than I expected. This did slow my pace somewhat. In fairness however, I should point out that they have remedied this in subsequent releases.
I'll be honest and admit this purchase was a bit of a no-brainer for me. Even if the novel had been terrible, which it's not, I would have bought it anyway. It's Nikki Heat for goodness sakes! Written by Richard Castle! My single technical gripe aside, there is nothing I can fault in the writing and production of this novel. The attention to detail is perfect. A sample chapter of the next novel, an interview with the author, even an author bio and acknowledgments. It is all done in flawless tongue-in-cheek fashion. It turns out that a fictional television author writing fictional novels can be a heck of a lot of fun.
As a final aside - a second novel, Naked Heat, is already available. It features a picture of the author in the dust-jacket and I have to say he does appear to be ruggedly handsome.