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The Nikki Heat Novels of Richard Castle

on Wed, 04/27/2011 - 00:00

When high-profile mystery novelist Richard Castle of the ABC drama Castle kills off Derek Storm, the main protagonist of his bestselling series, it is more than a case of eliminating the goose that laid the golden egg. “Life should be an adventure,” he tells his teenage daughter Alexis at the start of the series. “You want to know why I killed Derek? There were no more surprises. I knew exactly what was going to happen every moment of every scene.” Castle finds more than he bargained for, however, when he is brought into a murder investigation by New York City homicide detective Kate Beckett and not only finds the exhilaration that his life had been missing but a muse on which he could base a new character.

“She’s going to be really smart, very savvy, haunting good looks, really good at her job,” Richard Castle later explains of his newest creation. “And kinda slutty.” While the premise of crafting New York homicide detective Nikki Heat after Kate Becket offered Castle the opportunity to follow Beckett on the television show, it also paved the way for a series of actual mystery novels written under the pseudo name Richard Castle with the same titles as those seen on the crime drama. In September 2009, for instance, Heat Wave hit the book market just as the second season of Castle premiered on ABC. While Naked Heat was the follow-up tome on Castle, meanwhile, the same held true for the real world of crime fiction with the release of Naked Heat the following year.

There are many similarities between the settings of the television show and the novels of its fictional author. While Richard Castle is a mystery writer on Castle who tags-along with Kate Beckett as research for a new series of novels, in Heat Wave it is journalist Jameson Rook who follows homicide detective Nikki Heat for a magazine article he is writing. Supporting characters in Heat Wave also directly relate to those on Castle—detectives Raley and Ochoa are doppelgangers of Ryan and Esposito and the closeness of the two partners is emphasized by them jointly being known as “Roach” in the Nikki Heat novels.

Although Jameson Rook does not have a daughter as his counterpart does on Castle, both personas share a former Broadway diva as a mother and an unknown prior male acquaintance as a father. Nikki Heat, meanwhile, became a police detective after her mother was murdered, similar to the events that shaped Kate Beckett’s early life.

The fictitious Richard Castle, however, modeled the character of Nikki Heat after Kate Beckett in more ways than mere background material. While dialogue from Heat Wave includes such observations as, “Why don’t we do this thing called an investigation? Gather evidence, assemble some facts,” and, “Coincidences break cases. You know why? Because they don’t exist,” they also reflect the investigative style of Beckett as much as they do Heat.

Ironically enough—if you accept the premise that the books are indeed written by Richard Castle—the character of Jameson Rook is not always as flattering compared to the character of the television show. The Castle “ego” is obviously on display in the novels, with Rook portrayed as a rock-star journalist who went to New Orleans following Katrina, embedded himself with Chechnya rebels in their war with Russia, tagged along with Bono on a trip to Africa and has hung out with Mick Jagger on his yacht. He is also prone to making humorous quips, crafting theories on the fly and even has a toy helicopter in his loft just like Richard Castle.

The Richard Castle of Castle, meanwhile, has a much deeper investigative nature when it comes to crime solving. The chemistry between Castle and Beckett, for instance, is much more than sexual as they often reach the same conclusions at the same moment and even recite the same observations simultaneously. This does not hold true for Jameson Rook and Nikki Heat as the female detective is usually more adept than her male counterpart while the journalist is often left to play catch-up in the investigation. “Aren’t you doing this whole ride-along so you can get into the mind of a homicide detective?” she chastises Rook in Heat Wave when he fails to see the pattern of the events unfolding.

Although the complimentary intellectual nature of the two lead characters may be lacking in the novels, the same does not hold true for their sexual attraction. While the physical chemistry between Richard Castle and Kate Beckett merely percolates on the television show, it boils over within the pages of the novels. “A wave crashed over Nikki and washed away all the conflicted feelings and misgivings she had been wrestling with, and she was simply, mightily, powerfully swept up,” the fictitious Richard Castle writes in Heat Wave. “Swirling, she clung to Rook, needing to feel every part of him she could touch. They held on with a fury, his passion matching hers as they explored each other, moving, biting, hungry, reaching and reaching to satisfy what they ached for.”

Despite the provocative titles, the names of the novels pertain to the narratives themselves rather than any “slutty” nature exhibited by the title character. Heat Wave, for instance, takes place during a literal heat wave engulfing New York City. Naked Heat, meanwhile, is a reference to how Nikki Heat feels in regards to being on the cover of a national magazine upon the publication of Jameson Rook’s feature article and the struggle of suddenly being thrust into having her own “15 minutes of fame.” “Since your article came out I feel like I’m walking around naked,” she tells Rook.

While Heat Wave has a more independent nature from Castle despite the similarities of the major characters, Naked Heat feels like a homage to the series with a smorgasbord of references to various episodes from the ABC drama. Minor characters in the pages of the book have direct links to those who have graced the small screen, including a rich and powerful political family dominated by an elderly matriarch, a successful female rock star struggling with drug problems, a celebrity chef and a big-name professional baseball player and his controlling agent. Although their stories are different in Naked Heat, fans of Castle will no doubt conjure up memories of such installments as “Famous Last Words,” “Kill the Messenger,” “Food to Die For” and “Suicide Squeeze” while reading the crime novel.

Naked Heat also features a corpse that is stolen by heavily armed thugs from the ambulance taking it from the crime scene in a similar fashion to the first episode of season two. That is not to suggest that Naked Heat is merely a rip-off of what has already been done on Castle. Although many of the characters and sub-plots do indeed have a familiarity about them, the overarching narrative is both original and a true page-turner in its own right. While one does not have to be a fan of the television show to enjoy the novels, picking out the similarities between the two is an added bonus for Castle aficionados.

Richard Castle is portrayed as “the master of the macabre” on the ABC drama, with over 25 best sellers to his name. The Nikki Heat novels that have spun-off from Castle are not only entertaining but add to the reputation of the lead male character of the series as well. The publication of Heat Wave and Naked Heat is thus more than a simple publicity stunt but a genuine extension of the Castle universe that compliments the narrative—and an extra treat for followers of the show to treasure.

Anthony Letizia

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