Monday, September 19, 2011

The Muse Reviews: Heat Wave by "Richard Castle"

An interesting piece of cross-marketing by ABC. And a beach-read good time.


Have you seen Castle? I'm referring to the TV show on ABC starring Nathan Fillion as a writer who shadows a NYPD detective as research for his mystery novels.

I mention this because we are now in a new world of publishing. We've got ebooks, enhanced ebooks, self-publishing, vanity presses, print-only books, e-only books. We've got Twitter feeds that try to write a novel, one tweet at a time. (That's 140 characters, or about 20 words at a time.) We've got Twitter feeds that turn into sitcoms (as in S&*!$ My Dad Says). In this new world, cross-pollination is necessary. The seeds of your work have to reach far afield and morph into all kinds of entertainment forms.

Even TV shows are no exception, which is why ABC is taking advantage of the new world by publishing the novels that fictional TV character Rick Castle is writing. Heat Wave is Castle's first novel based on his police department ride-alongs. And to fill in the illusion even more, the novel even has Mr. Fillion's picture on the back, and a little author bio that reads as tongue-in-cheek as any other real novelist's bio ever has.

As an aside, I hope the ghost-writer has a good payment deal going. He's not getting credit, which for a tie-in novel is rare. So if he (or she) is smart, he (or she) is getting a higher paycheck than the typical tie-in novelists, who get paid partly in credit for their own work.

But I digress. The real point is this: Is Heat Wave worth reading? I'd say yes, but it's a qualified yes. If you're looking for something similar to the TV show, you'll get it. But you'll also be a tad disappointed. There's just something that Fillion and his co-star Stana Katic (who plays Det. Kate Beckett) bring to the characters that is missing from their novel counterparts.

However, if you can put aside the comparison between novel and TV, and just enjoy the novel, you'll be okay. Heat Wave is a decent beach read. It moves fast. It's lively and easy to follow. It's a good mystery. But it's not the kind of series I'd come back to if it were just a novel series. It's actually the TV show that makes me consider reading the next novel in the series, Naked Heat. (Wasn't that the one with the sex scene that Kate sneakily tried to read in the bathroom stall, only to get caught by Castle?)

My point is that it's the TV characters and their reactions to the so-called Nikki Heat novels that make me want to read the novels. Not the novels themselves. It's not that the novels are poorly written; they're good. But something about Heat Wave just doesn't rise above good to become great for me. I can't put my finger on it. Maybe it just suffers by comparison to the TV show.

But Heat Wave moved up the bestseller charts when it first came out, so what do I know? I think that's a sign that finding as many ways as possible to reform and resell your novel is the way to go in the new publishing world. Consumers want more. If you give them more, they'll buy it. And maybe, just maybe, your offerings in every entertainment stream will be satisfying. Either way, it's worth a try.

Bottom line: Go ahead and get Heat Wave at your local library. They have it. See what you think. If nothing else, it's a good book for that beach read or that plane ride. Fun enough, fast enough, without needing too much thought.

5 comments:

  1. I LOVE Castle. And ever since I saw they made Heat Wave into an actual book, I have been tempted to read it, but only because of its connection to the show. If it was just a regular series, I probably wouldn't. The power of association. Thanks for the review. I may just have to move it up my to-read list.

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  2. I've never seen more than two consecutive minutes of Castle. It looks like an OK TV show.
    But I resent the success of the novel sales. It's artificial. The only reason the novels sell is the TV show and the marketing muscle behind them, the immense resources that a TV network can use.
    Sales and promotion are tough enough for writers.
    I'm not saying that if this tie-in book series did not exist, other writers would be rich; but these books fit into the same category of artificially created demand as Justin Beiber's autobiography, Snookie's novel, and singing stuffed fish you can hang on a wall.

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  3. Interesting. I keep meaning to try out Castle, but I haven't found the time yet. I hear it's great. If it were a series I followed I'd definitely get the book just for curiosity's sake.

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  4. I can see what you're saying, Scott. I agree that these novels wouldn't be as big a deal if not connected to Nathan Fillion's star. As for Beiber, Snooki, etc., writing books, I don't know what the solution is. That's the celebrity machine at work, just like Heat Wave is. But I still think it's important to figure out ways to branch out with our own writing and do all the cross-promoting we can. Not easy. But necessary.

    Lisa, if you do try out the TV show, stop by again and let me know what you think of it.

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  5. My dad is a Castle fan so I bought the book for his birthday. Glad to hear they put some effort into it - thanks for the review!

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