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Richard Castle, Derrick Storm and Nikki Heat

on Wed, 12/14/2011 - 00:00

In the fictitious world of the ABC drama Castle, novelist Richard Castle is not only a successful mystery writer but a bona fide “rock star” within the genre. His resume contains over 25 bestselling books, most of which center on the adventures of private detective Derrick Storm. Castle has also produced a second series of novels featuring a new protagonist—New York homicide detective Nikki Heat—that have likewise found success, including a big-screen adaptation of the inaugural effort, Heat Wave. At night, Richard Castle participates in a weekly poker game with such real-life mystery writers as James Patterson, Michael Connelly and the late Stephen J. Cannell, while by day he assists Kate Beckett and the Twelfth Precinct of the NYPD solve murders of the most dubious in nature.

Castle is more than a crime drama, however, as the producers of the series have been able to capitalize on the popularity of the show by releasing the works of Richard Castle into the world-at-large. Thus while Heat Wave climbed the fictional charts of the show, it found equal footing on the actual New York Times Best Sellers list and Amazon. In further testimony to “life imitating art,” Derrick Storm has likewise made the transition from the imaginary with a graphic novel interpretation of the notorious PI’s first case that debuted in September 2011.

“Wolverine, Batman, Betty and Veronica—sure, they were fine for their day,” Richard Castle announced in the season three finale of Castle. “But there is a new sheriff on the spinner rack.” A mere four months later, Deadly Storm: A Derrick Storm Mystery was released by Marvel Comics, co-created by acclaimed comic book writer Brian Michael Bendis and Kelly Sue DeConnick. Despite being based on the works of the fictitious mystery writer, there is a definite Castle-esque vibe to both Deadly Storm and Derrick Storm nonetheless, and the story itself feels like the type of narrative that Richard Castle himself would have concocted.

Castle creator Andrew Marlowe has often stated that The Rockford Files was a source of inspiration for the ABC drama, and the same holds true for Derrick Storm. Instead of master detective, Storm is a down-and-out private eye who takes on domestic cases of infidelity in order to make ends meet. The only mail he receives are bills, collection notices and the occasional postcard from an ex-girlfriend interested in reconnecting. While that alone may sound a lot like Jim Rockford, the two also share a penchant for quick-witted remarks and protective fathers as a source of guidance.

Richard Castle is also reflected in Derek Storm. When a routine investigation involving a cheating husband turns into a case of American spies betraying their country, a CIA operative hires Storm to assist in finding a missing agent. “Let me have it,” he says in response before elaborating on the meaning of his statement. “My secret agent toy. My spy phone that’s really a camera. A pen that’s a gun. My invisible jet.” Richard Castle would no doubt have generated the same enthusiasm if he had been in a similar situation.

Although Castle has described himself as “ruggedly handsome,” Storm has a more of a beefy, muscular type of physique. And while Richard Castle used his stature and fame to acquire many influential friends, Derrick Storm is not above hiring former stripper Sassy Monroe—who goes by the stage name Crystal Cleavage—as his secretary when he finds his own success. “From deadbeat gumshoe and perennial disappointment to owner and operator of NYC’s most glamorous boutique detective agency in one year,” Storm reflects at the end of Deadly Storm. “And did I mention the part about being a secret CIA op? My life does not suck.”

Deadly Storm was not the only Richard Castle creation released in September 2011, however, as one week earlier saw the debut of the third Nikki Heat novel, Heat Rises. Through the course of Castle’s multiple seasons, the character of Richard Castle has been heard on more than one occasion uttering the words “that needs to go in the book,” and Heat Rises contains moments that are recognizable to fans of the series just as Heat Wave and Naked Heat did before. In the television installment “Last Call,” for instance, Kate Beckett and Richard Castle investigate the murder of a former dockworker turned bar owner.

“It’s legendary, all the great writers drank there,” Castle explains of the tavern in question. “It’s noted as history. First as a blacksmith, then a bordello. It only became a bar during prohibition as a speakeasy and it was one on the best. I swear you can still feel the vibration of every notorious episode of glamour and debauchery on its wall. The Old Haunt is the last of a dying breed.”

In Heat Rises, meanwhile, the corresponding duo of Nikki Heat and Jameson Rook are led to another fictitious New York tavern during the course of their own investigation. “He knew the Brass Harpoon for several reason,” the novel states of Rook. “First, it was one of those legendary writer’s bars of old Manhattan. Booze-infused geniuses from Hemingway to Cheever to O’Hara to Exley left their condensation rings on the bar and on tabletops at the Harpoon over the decades. It was also a mythical survivor of prohibition, with its secret doors and underground tunnels, long since condemned, where alcohol could be smuggled in and drunks smuggled out blocks away.”

In addition to brief references to actual episodes of Castle, Heat Rises likewise shares similar traits between the characters of the television series and the novel itself. Richard Castle’s tendency to offer humorous puns regarding the way victims have been murdered is just one example. In Heat Rises, Nikki Heat is forced to stab an attacker with an icicle in order to halt his deadly attack. “Please tell me you said ‘Freeze,’ because that would only be perfect,” Jameson Rook tells her afterwards.

Then there’s the character of Nikki Heat, who has been modeled by Richard Castle after his partner in crime solving, Kate Beckett. Part of the admiration that Castle exhibits towards Beckett has to do with the New York detective’s ability to empathize with the victims, a trait that has indeed been incorporated into the personality of Nikki Heat. “And then, cold as she was, the homicide cop stopped and stood there to perform her next ritual—a pause to honor the dead she was about to meet,” Heat Rises observes. “That small, quiet, private moment lived as a ceremonial interval Nikki Heat claimed when she arrived at every crime scene. Its purpose was simple. To reaffirm that, victim or villain, the waiting corpse was human and deserved to be respected and treated individually, not as the next stat.”

Despite similarities between the characters and obvious allusions to previous episodes of the television series, the Nikki Heat novels are well-written mystery tomes that contain originality and are more than capable of standing on their own merit. They are also equally successful in the real world as they have been in the fictitious universe in which Castle exists. The first release—Heat Wave—eventually rose to number six on the New York Times Best Seller list in 2009 while its follow-up novel Naked Heat debuted at number seven the following year. 2011, meanwhile, featured two Richard Castle creations making the charts—Deadly Storm entered at number three while Heat Rises was a bona fide number one bestseller.

Castle is more than a contemporary crime drama as it contains a multitude of freshly-drawn characters that matter just as much—if not more so—to fans of the series as the murders that are solved in each week’s installment. It is this investment in the characters that have no doubt played a key role in the success of both Nikki Heat and Derrick Storm, and made Richard Castle a bestselling author on both sides of the television screen in the process.

Anthony Letizia

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