Monday, December 13, 2010

Who is Richard Castle really?

One of the joys of being in Hawaii is laying out on the beach all day reading terrific books by authors who don’t exist. If Richard Castle were not fictional, he would be up there among the mystery writer elite.

I just finished his latest, Naked Heat, and loved it.

In case you're unfamiliar, Richard Castle is the character charmingly played by Nathan Fillion on the ABC hit series, CASTLE. He’s a mystery writer following around a real detective, played by Stana Katic, who’s either smoking hot or a stuck-up ice queen depending upon your viewpoint.  Not that the latter isn't a turn-on. 

The conceit of Naked Heat is that it was written by Richard Castle, as if he really existed. Lots of shows have novelizations but they don’t claim the show character is actually real. Another franchise that did employ this ploy successfully was MURDER, SHE WROTE. There is a series of books supposedly written by Jessica Fletcher, while Angela Lansbury was off making pies with Sweeney Todd.

On the other hand, at least the publishers are admitting that these authors are fictional. One of my favorite statements ever was from football great Terrell Owens who claims he was “misquoted in his own autobiography”.

(And there was the time I was in London visiting the Sherlock Holmes museum on Baker Street when some tourists wanted to know if this was really the house he lived in.)

The fictional author gambit has paid off handsomely for CASTLE. The first book sold 200,000 copies and spent sixteen weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. And the new book is taking off even faster.

But aside from trading on the show’s popularity, what makes this potboiler so surprising is that it’s really good on it’s own. The mystery is clever, the snap and sizzle of the series is all there, but there’s also a deepening of the characters that you don’t find on the TV show.

So I recommend it. Go to Hawaii and read this book.

The only thing is – I feel bad for the real writer. He deserves bestsellers of his own. Wouldn’t it be great if his real name really turns out to be Jessica Fletcher?

31 comments:

Pierre-Luc Allie said...

Barney Stinson is also a published author.

Brian said...

Kevin Smith tells the story on his "THREEVENING" DVD that when the TV series "ENTOURAGE" mentioned he was chosen to be the screenwriter of "AQUAMAN II", people for months would come up and congratulate him on the great assignment.

To which he replied: "Think, now, think - do you remember seeing an 'AQUAMAN I'"?

I'm sure there are plenty of people who think Nathan Fillion really writes books.

Bob Summers said...

LAPD used to have to fend off people who came in to ask to meet Joe Friday. After trying to explain that it's just a show, they just stated telling people it was his day off.

Sherwood Schwartz of Gilligan and Brady fame has a similar story. During the Gilligan run, a Coast Guard officer visited his office with a collection of telegrams the Coast Guard had received. The gist was that all these people wanted to know what efforts were underway to find the passengers and crew of the S.S. Minnow.

News Today said...

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Max Clarke said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Max Clarke said...

At least the guy who wrote Tom Clancy's novels finally got credit on the cover. Can't remember his name, though, the type is very small.

emily said...

Is it too late for you to put out some Frasier self-help books?

Tom Reeder said...

Maybe Terrell Owens was reading his autobiography to see how it turned out.

I agree with your assessment of "Richard Castle's" books: the real author spins a good yarn. I'm hopeful that someday there will be works published under his true name, but perhaps I'm just grasping at straws.

Anonymous said...

You didn't hear this from me. The real writer of the Castle novels was..............JD Salinger. It's true, I just read it in the newly constructed Autobiography of Mark Twain, Vol. 1.

Scot Boyd said...

Castle has had real mystery writers do cameos a few times; maybe the books are written by somebody who already has bestsellers of his own and just wanted to have some fun.

gottacook said...

Sometimes the real mystery writer "comes out" and has interesting, successful books in his/her own name. Case in point: Michael Gruber, who ghost-wrote many courtroom-type mysteries under the name of a real person (Robert K. Tanenbaum) and then started producing under his own name instead; I would recommend The Book of Air and Shadows.

april said...

Nathan Fillion was actually doing the booksignings last year. I do wonder who is actually writing the books. I read the first and found it quite amusing. I love the play on names where the fictionalized Castle (who is um also fictional) is called Rook. I haven't read the second yet, but I'm sure it is as clever as the first.

Lee Goldberg said...

There are lots of great TV series tie-in novels out there with original stories that dig deeper into the characters... like Tod Goldberg's series of BURN NOTICE novels and Max Allan Collins' bestselling C.S.I. books. You can find out more about these and other tie-ins from the International Association of Media Tie-In writers (www.iamtw.org).

Lee

Charles H. Bryan said...

The Amazon bio includes: "His first novel, In a Hail of Bullets, published while he was still in college, received the Nom DePlume Society's prestigious Tom Straw Award for Mystery Literature."

Well, there actually is a Tom Straw, listed as a mystery and tv writer. His imdb page lists an episode of ... AfterMASH! (Insert dramatic music sting.)

No Castle credits, but if you look at the Amazon page for his latest book (The Trigger Episode) customers also bought Castle books and DVD sets.

Yeah, I'm bored at work.

jrabbit said...

Bob Summers said ....
"LAPD used to have to fend off people who came in to ask to meet Joe Friday. After trying to explain that it's just a show, they just stated telling people it was his day off.

Sherwood Schwartz of Gilligan and Brady fame has a similar story. During the Gilligan run, a Coast Guard officer visited his office with a collection of telegrams the Coast Guard had received. The gist was that all these people wanted to know what efforts were underway to find the passengers and crew of the S.S. Minnow."

Ah yes, people watching the historical archives (GalaxyQuest) sometimes have a difficult time distinguishing reality from fiction.

Heat Wave and Naked Heat are both wonderful works of fiction. An upcoming episode of Castle has a real actress playing a fictional actress that has won the movie role of playing the fictional character Nikki Heat and will be following the "real" fictional characters Rick Castle and Kate Beckett around. --- Screws head back on after all of those twists ---

Mike Doran said...

Following up on Charles H. Bryan's comment:

That same "bio" mentioning the Tom Straw Award appears on the jacket flap of both Castle books, where the dozen or so of us who actually read those can plainly see it.

So I guess what I've heard is true -
Nobody reads jacket flaps.

YEKIMI said...

Not a big fan of mystery books but I have heard that they have had some established [meaning already published and possibly well known] mystery writers writing these Castle books.

Jennifer said...

It's weird that you mention this now, since I actually saw the Castle books for the first time today. I was really confused at first because I know nothing about Castle and I thought it might be a Temperance Brennan/Kathy Reichs type thing where the character is a fictionalized version of the author. But the picture of the author on the back looked like Nathan Fillon so I wasn't sure if they just did the most amazing casting job in the history of ever or it was just a normal TV-based book. I guess it makes sense that it's the latter, though I can totally see a TV executive thinking "holy crap, this author looks exactly like Nathan Fillon. Clearly this is a great premise for a show."

te said...

Walter Scott (a pseudonym in its own right) gets his scoops straight from the publicists; than makes up a question to go with them.

Tom Straw it is.

Tim W. said...

No offense, but if Jessica Fletcher is his real name, he's got a really girly first name.

"LAPD used to have to fend off people who came in to ask to meet Joe Friday. After trying to explain that it's just a show, they just stated telling people it was his day off.

Sherwood Schwartz of Gilligan and Brady fame has a similar story. During the Gilligan run, a Coast Guard officer visited his office with a collection of telegrams the Coast Guard had received. The gist was that all these people wanted to know what efforts were underway to find the passengers and crew of the S.S. Minnow."

I laughed, then remembered those people also vote.

Matt Patton said...

Speaking of Jessica Fletcher, "she" published a whole string of paperback mysteries during the '80's and 90's. I bought one once. Not earth-shaking, but better than anything Mickey Spillane ever wrote.

Lee Goldberg said...

The "Jessica Fletcher" books are still growing strong. There are about 40 in print, with a new one coming this January.

Brian Phillips said...

I'm guessing it was Donald Westlake. He wrote so much that he used pseudonyms and his passing may have only slowed his writing methods.

Ryan said...

It looks like Ken knew the real author all along. Clever mystery, Ken.

http://blogcritics.org/books/article/an-interview-with-tom-straw-author/

Anonymous said...

Is William Shatner a pseudonym?

David K. M. Klaus said...

The police working at Parker Center would probably have received fewer inquiries about meeting Joe Friday if they hadn't had a mural on an outside wall which featured multiple views of a squad car with A-12 on the roof, the radio call for which would be "1-Adam-12".

I wonder if back in the late '50s/early '60s the actual L. A. County Fire Department Station 8 in West Hollywood ever had people asking about Wes Cameron and Skip Johnson from Rescue 8.

katakombs said...

Figuring out the mystery of who wrote the books is part of the fun.

I thought both books were a good read. I've read mystery stories by "established" writers that were much worse.

Between the books and Castle's twitters and the annual summer mystery, the show's producers do a good job of using new media.

Urganda la desconocida said...

Well, I followed your advice, Mr. Levine and got both books and read them.

They're not half bad, either. Really enjoyed the moment in the second book when one of the characters explains that he worked as a house counsel at Levine & Isaacs Public Relations.

LOL

Cam said...

Nathan Fillion said in an interview on the Kevin Pollak chat show that the actual author makes a cameo in one of the episodes (he's talking to Castle at the first book launch party).

I'm not sure who the actual author is and I haven't gone back and watched that episode since. (Plus i can't recognize that many author's faces anyways)

Lee Goldberg said...

You don't need to be a detective to figure out who the author of the Castle books is...just look at the "About the Author" page, where it reads: "Castle is an author of mystery fiction, with 26 bestsellers. His first novel, In a Hail of Bullets won the Nom DePlume Society's Tom Straw Award for Mystery Literature

Lee Goldberg said...

Fillion also cops to it in an interview in Parade...

http://www.parade.com/celebrity/personality-parade/2010/02/castle.html