13 July 2012

Fiction and TV

I'm sort of embarrassed by how much TV I watch. It's a default activity even more common than trolling the Internet. One attraction is that it is so passive, although it's not as passive as it was when there were only half a dozen channels available. (I won't go on about remembering when two broadcasters in Minneapolis/St. Paul shared one channel. That was really ancient times, i.e. before 1955.)

The permanent residents of this house have become fans of a couple television series that remind us of the screwball comedies starring Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant. The "remind" is crucial because neither Bones nor Castle is a full-fledged screwball comedy, but they do feature couples, ambiguous relationships, and adequately snappy dialogue. Close enough for network TV.

Both also have links to novels. Temperance Brennan, the main character in Bones, is based on the protagonist of Kathy Reichs crime novels. And the Brennan character is a successful mystery writer, as well as an irritating polymath. Things are more complicated in Castle.

Andrew Marlowe
Andrew Marlowe is the creator and producer of Castle, the television series. One of the main characters in that series is Richard Castle, a writer of mystery and romance novels. But, if you look in a book store or at Amazon, you'll find that Hyperion has published four crime/mystery novels featuring the main characters of the television series, Kate Beckett, a New York City detective and Richard Castle, author. The televison series characters in those books are called Nikki Heat and Jameson Rook. And just to cement the illusion, actor Nathan Fillon, who plays Richard Castle on TV is pictured on the back cover as Richard Castle, the author of the Nikki Heat books.

I get seriously confused if I try to keep this all straight when watching television. It's worse when reading one of "Richard Castle's" books. But that's what I did. I read Naked Heat by "Richard Castle." (Online speculation about who actually writes these books is rampant. The best one I read suggests that creator Andrew Marlowe is the writer. He credits his wife in the acknowledgements as "co-conspirator." And Marlowe gets writing credit for 79 of 81 episodes.)

 Naked Heat reads like a book-length treatment of an episode of the series. There are the requisite snappy lines once in awhile. There are the murders, the suspects, the bad guys, and the red herrings. The relationship between Heat and Rook is not as ambiguous as the one between Beckett and Castle. The ambiguity is reduced in ways you might expect the Castle character to write it.

But, an episode of Castle lasts 43 minutes. The book is nearly 300 pages. Things move slowly in the book. Discussions among the detectives are much more interesting when they quickly take place on screen than when they drag out in print. Quick cuts between scenes on TV work better than blind transitions on the printed page. This plot might work well as an episode on TV. Maybe it has, because I haven't watched all 81 episodes.  

Naked Heat was entertaining if not engrossing. I don't think I'll go looking for the other "Richard Castle" books. I will probably watch new episodes on TV, although I expect there aren't many left. As the Castle-Beckett relationship becomes less ambiguous on the television screen, one element of the tension that holds things together (or apart, if you prefer) will disappear. And so will the television series.

 I'm sure I'll find something else to watch (if not read).

Have you read Naked Heat or another of "Richard Castle's" books?  

Write and tell this little bit of the world what you thought.

Scott D. Parker's review on his blog.

The publisher's YouTube promo for Naked Heat


The television cast and writer at Comic Con 2010. 



Ken Wedding said...

Bird Loomis wrote from Kansas, "Castle is one of our guilty (well, semi-guilty) pleasures. Not up to Cybil Shepherd and Bruce Willis in Moonlighting (to say nothng of Carey Grant vehicles). Still, consistently enjoyable in that 9pm Monday kind of way. Would NEVER touch a book written (sic) by Richard Castle."

Ken Wedding said...

Ah, how could I forget Moonlighting. I am reminded that somewhere I have a VCR I made of the Shakespeare episode. Gonna have to go look for that.