Liz Tells Frank What Happened In the “Castle” Novels Written By Castle
The idea/term/concept “transmedia” is meant to represent the concept of a story told across across multiple platforms — see, as one early example, the sequels to The Matrix, which were accompanied by a video game, comics and other ancillary content. The Matrix sequels suffered from a combination of being ahead of their time and also some supreme dumbness. Today, though, the concept of using multiple platforms to tell a story has become increasingly mainstream. Case in point: A little ol’ TV show called Castle.
As you know, Frank, Castle is an easygoing ABC procedural about a sexy mystery writer named Castle, who rides along with a sexy lady detective named Beckett while she and her detecting team solve crimes. It is the sort of nice little show that my grandmother would have really liked — every week, mysteries get solved, the main characters flirt, Nathan Fillion makes the occasional reference to Firefly and a good time is had by all.
In the context of the show, there are two reasons Castle hangs out with Beckett — one, because of the aforementioned flirting, and two (the “official” reason), his current series of “Nikki Heat” novels is based on her. What is amazing is that those novels? THEY EXIST. They have been written. They are New York Times bestsellers. And they are AWESOME.
But they’re not just awesome because they’re somewhat compelling mystery novels, and they’re not just awesome because as far as the world/Amazon.com is concerned, Richard Castle is the author of record for these books.
The major reason they are awesome is that they provide a fascinating reflection upon the show, an additional layer to the narrative when you consider the fact that they’re in theory written from Castle’s POV. You see, Frank, each of the three Nikki Heat novels to be released so far debuted in September of that year, just as the show was about to premiere. And each one is written to coincide with events on the show as well as the characters’ personal development.
On the surface, the differences between a Nikki Heat novel and a Castle episode are superficial. Beckett becomes Nikki Heat, her fellow detectives Esposito and Ryan renamed Ochoa and Ryan, Captain Montgomery shifting to Captain Montrose. And there’s also a surrogate for Castle himself: “Jameson Rook” is a glamorous investigative journalist whose original excuse for following around a sexy lady detective is a magazine profile he’s doing on sexy lady detectives.
That excuse changes over the course of the books, though — because after four seasons of the show, Beckett and Castle’s Will They Or Won’t They relationship is still unresolved, but Nikki Heat and Jameson Rook? They DO IT. They do it A LOT. I am talking about SEX. Sexy sexy SEX. Usually after tequila shots.
That happens in the first book, which ends with the two in some sort of vaguely defined non-relationship; the second book, meanwhile, deals with Nikki’s reaction to being the subject of a magazine profile and thus an increasingly public figure — similar to how Castle has also explored those issues. And the third book, Heat Rises, not only deals with the third season finale’s major plot twist, but also further explores the undefined yet passionate relationship between Beckett and Castle — oops, sorry, I mean “Heat and Rook.”
And the characters, while presented under different names, are pretty much identical to their on-screen counterparts — including Rook, oddly enough; aside from a change in vocation, Castle the author has gone to no effort to make his alter ego cooler or more suave than the on-screen goofball Nathan Fillion can’t really help being. The only major change made in the books is that while Castle has a lovely teenage daughter, Rook is childless — which can be chocked up to a loving father wanting to spare his child any potentially negative attention.
Continuing to examine the books in context of their “author” allows you to draw less-than-subtle conclusions — for example, in Heat Wave , the first book, Nikki Heat has to fight off a home invader after a bubble bath. Fully nude. It’s not hard to imagine Nathan Fillion sitting at his laptop, writing out that scene in explicit detail. He probably did multiple drafts.
But in later books, as the relationship between Rook and Heat develops, a recurring element begins to emerge: Rook is constantly trying to take care of Heat in the aftermath of tough moments, and she increasingly lets him do so. Given how reserved Beckett is on the show, and unwilling to accept help, it’s not hard to read that as a sort of subconscious longing on Castle’s part, that he’s using his characters to express–
Basically, here’s what there is to know about the Nikki Heat books — there is no need to go looking up Castle fan fiction on the internet. The show WROTE IT FOR YOU. Okay, if you want to read naughty naughty Esposito/Ryan slash, then you do have to look for it on the internet (does it exist, you ask? Frank, please see Rule 34 — OF COURSE IT EXISTS). But my point stands.
The world of Castle in print has gotten larger this fall, as a graphic novel “adaptation” of the first novel in Richard Castle’s “Derrick Storm” series was released a few weeks ago. (I put “adaptation” in quotes, Frank, because Deadly Storm was the first in-real-life appearance of the Derrick Storm character in any form of print.)
Nathan Fillion did an in-character signing at Meltdown Comics in L.A. to promote the launch of the graphic novel; Fillion, in fact, has done a whole bunch of book signings over the years as Richard Castle. The real author of the novels (as well as the WriteRCastle Twitter account) is unknown; as far as the world is concerned, the writer of the Nikki Heat novels bears a striking resemblance to that guy who played a space pirate one time.
What makes all of this so amazing is that none of this is necessary to the business of making a decently-rated network crime show. This is all extra credit, suck-up-to-the-teacher stuff, and it pays off in extra cash from the book sales and a richer narrative for the super-fans. Castle may never win Emmys — it seems relatively content to cruise through class earning Bs. But the extra credit stuff? Gets it an A+.
Imagine a world, Frank, where every series put this much effort into the life of the show beyond the episodes. That world sounds awesome. And fortunately, it seems more and more like the world we’re heading towards.