Heatwave – Richard Castle

I was introduced to Castle by a friend, and I was hooked from the first episode. If you haven’t come across it, it’s a comedy-crime TV series starring Nathan Fillion as crime novelist Richard Castle who becomes the side-kick of NYPD Detective Kate Beckett (Stana Katic). He is, you see, inspired by Beckett to write a character based on her. And he needs to do research.

Heatwave is the first novel, written during the first season of the TV show, starring Detective Nikki Heat. Guess what no-nonsense Beckett thinks of that name?!

Nikki, and her ride-along journalist who’s writing an article about the NYPD, must solve the murder of a property tycoon, a man thrown six floors from his balcony to the pavement below. Was it the much-younger trophy wife, the nervous accountant, or the mob-linked man the victim placed bets with?

While this will never win any prestigious literary prizes, Heatwave was enormously good fun. It read very much as if perhaps Fillion, in his role as Castle, had indeed written it (my guess would be one or more of the scriptwriters for the show, plus maybe an edit by Fillion). And it’s very easy, having watched the show, to see each person in the characters inspired by them.

If you’ve seen and liked the show, you’ll love Heatwave. If you haven’t, it’s still a good read, but some references might pass you by. Not that this would detract from the reading.

All in all, though, I’m on the lookout for the other Nikki Heat novels. And no doubt will pass judgment on here.

The Novel is Dead. Long live the, er, Novel.

Apparently, according to the novelist Will Self over on The Guardian, the Novel is dead.

By “novel”, he means the sort of serious literature of yesteryear, not the, er, pulp fiction so popular today, because, let’s face it, it’s so much less taxing to read. Although he agrees that many fine novels have been written in the last century, he suggests that they are “zombie novels”, the form dying some time about when Joyce published Finnegan’s Wake, but refusing, quite, to die properly. I’ll admit here that I haven’t read any Joyce. And I’ll agree, there’s a lot of dross out there, atrociously written and badly plotted.

But I think that this misses the point of why people read. We don’t read to be ‘challenged’. Why should we? I don’t know about you, but I read (fiction, this is) because the story interests me, or because I like the writing. Because my curiosity has been piqued. I don’t see why it is the job of a novel to make me think. If you can’t think for yourself before you read a novel, then how is a work of serious fiction going to help? And if we can’t cope with difficult literature, then what does that say about our education?

I have nothing against Literature. But why does ‘difficult’ seem to mean dull? I gave up on the Waverley novels after about three because whichever one I was reading then was, frankly, exceedingly tedious and I had Wagner’s Ring Cycle waiting in the wings. I don’t cease reading easily, but I haven’t yet returned to Scott.

What I look for most, though, is what my friend Katie and I have started calling the ‘Castle-factor’. A sense of fun and not-taking-itself-seriously. It doesn’t have to be poorly-written or a bad story. It doesn’t have to be romantic or comic or any other label that books get. It doesn’t even have to be a murder-mystery such as Castle (allegedly) writes. It just has to have something which appeals to my sense of humour or mood on the day that just tickles my interest. It’s tricky to define. Especially since I have quite a broad sense of the ridiculous. But a book doesn’t need the Castle-factor for me to try it. It just helps.

A portion of our book-collection...

A portion of our book-collection…

Reading is a terribly personal thing, and what I take away from a novel is likely very different to what you do. Which is one reason why I do so hate analysing fiction.

Besides which, if the story and the writing are good enough, you’re probably not going to notice if it’s Literature or not. You’re going to be too lost in the world.

“I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library,”

said Jorge Luis Borges – and I really wish I had!

What sort of books do you like to read? Is there a genre you prefer? Or are you like me, and will read pretty much anything, if it interests you? Do you care if the author is male or female? Does the author’s name really register when you first pick it up?

In my habitual perusal of the ‘net, I stumbled across a campaign encouraging the reading of female authors’ works, despite the allegedly off-putting pastel covers. I’ve been a bit lazy in my reading of late, I will admit, but normally, I am a prolific reader. I also hate getting rid of my books. So I have children’s books next to adult books. Well, not really, that’s not how I organise my books, but you get my drift.

My shelves are, coincidentally, mostly full of female authors. Mostly because I’ve managed to collect the majority of Georgette Heyer’s novels, a decent handful or three of Agatha Christie’s and most of Dorothy L. Sayers. And I’ve still got a load of Enid Blytons (I don’t want to have to buy my children the updated, modern editions. I see nothing wrong with the originals). I don’t have these books because the authors are female and so am I. The only author whose books I discovered because of the author’s name (and therefore gender) is Celia Rees, and she I chose because we share a name. I continued reading her books because I liked them. Most books are recommended or were idly picked up while browsing in a shop.

Good books I read, and look for more by the same. Books which bore me, not so much. I don’t normally think about the author’s gender. I just want to know if the writing’s any good. Sometimes, easy reads are what I want, and I’ll read “chick-lit” for the simplicity, or television/film tie-ins – like those by “Richard Castle”! But usually, I just want a good story, told in such a way that the words paint pictures in my mind. Conan Doyle, Dumas, the above women, Tolkien. There is a host of great authors out there, too many to list them all here. Discover your own favourites, not just the ones that the Powers That Be decide everyone should read.

I think a book is a book and you should read what you like. Regardless of the author’s gender.