Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Richard Castle, Naked Heat, 2010.

The newest entry in the on-going saga of Richard Castle--sorry, of "Jameson Rook"--this novel is weaker than the last year's entry, Heat Wave. What worries me is why I think that's true. After all, this mystery is well-paced, and has some surprising twists and turns. It stands squarely in line with the TV series, with a similar sense of humour. Naked Heat and Heat Wave have clear similarities with episodes of Castle, with the same unfolding of the case, and characters who are in many ways much like Rick Castle and Detective Kate Beckett. So what's not to like? Well—that's the part that embarasses me. I don't think that the TV character Rick Castle would write like this. I think he'd be a better writer. I grant that's a pretty subjective judgement. Let me offer an example or two. On the first page, describing Nikki Heat, "Castle" writes: "She used the interlude to peel back the lid of her coffee to see if it was drinking temp yet." Castle's portrayed as a language geek on the show, someone who cares about how the English language is used: I simply can't imagine the character allowing "temp" to stay in a published copy of a book, rather than "temperature." Pedantic, on my part? Absolutely. More telling are the lines like this one:
The previous May, just days after he had returned to New York from Cannes, where he received a special jury prize for his role as the bastard son of France's first American ambassador, Reed Wakefield pulled a Heath Ledger and died of an accidental drug overdose. (129)

The overly long nature of the sentence is a stylistic issue; the tastelessness of the simile is egregious. If the simile was being used on the show — and it got past Standards and Practices to make it on the air, an idea I find hard to credit —I could imagine Nathan Fillion pulling it off with his insouciant charm. On the page, it doesn't work.

I've taken several days to wonder why I'm so disturbed by faults like these. (I've also taken several days to ponder instead of to blog, because my beloved has been reading it, and I haven't gotten my hands back on the copy to type out the examples I've used.) How much of my reaction is a fan-boy-esque disappointment in something that didn't live up to my expectations, and how much is something else? Does a television network publishing a book to help advertise a show have a responsibility to make the novel sound as though it was written by the character to whom it's ascribed? How much of my problem is that the mystery itself wasn't as good as Heat Wave? I'm finding these questions interesting, and I don't have clear answers. Despite the flaws in writing (and in not sounding enough like the Rick Castle I watch each Monday night), it's a decent little diversion. I can't imagine that anyone who picks it up is looking for anything remarkable--maybe its real purpose, other than advertising, is to let over-interested viewers leer voyeuristically at Castle's fantasies of a Beckett/Castle relationship, in the not-overly-disguised roman à clef fashion that these books offer.

I'm left disappointed, but more intrigued by my own reaction. The book itself reminds us of the importance of libraries; after all, it's certainly not worth the $24.99 US sticker price.

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