Nikki Heat books by Richard Castle, and similar things

For those of you who don’t know, Castle is a TV detective show about a successful mystery author (probably equivalent in popularity and talent to Michael Connelly) who teams up with NYPD to solve crimes. He is played by Nathan Fillion. In the TV series, Castle has a series of books about detective Nikki Heat.

In our real world out here, there are ALSO available Nikki Heat novels (the same ones mentioned in the show). These books have been very successful. The author of the books is listed as Richard Castle, and the author bio on the jacket is of the character, with a picture of Nathan Fillion. There is nothing on the book to indicate “Richard Castle” is not a real person.

Now to my questions. What do you all think about this sort of thing? Would you want to be the true author of these books, knowing you’ll likely never get credit? How do you hire someone to write them? I wouldn’t think a successful author would want to subvert himself for what could be considered cheap money-grabbing tie ins (the books are NYT best sellers), and a less successful author might write bad books.

Would you look down on an author that wrote these kind of books? Especially if you were also an author?

Do you think this sort of thing contributes to the “stupidening” of society? That people might actually believe that “Richard Castle” is a real person? Would it make a difference if said people never watched TV?

I don’t watch TV. I only stream it on Netflix and Hulu.


I think it’s cute. I’ve heard (sorry, no cite) that the authors of the books are the writers for the show. If I were them, I’d jump at the chance to publish an actual best-seller. Their name might not be on the book, but the industry would know who they were. And if they harbored any ambitions to be actual book authors in the future, this would seem like an excellent foot in the door.

My father enjoys reading crime / suspense novels. He’s also in his early 80s, and not quite as sharp as he used to be.

I’m a big fan of the Castle TV series, and I got my dad a couple of the Nikki Heat novels for Christmas a couple of years ago. He really enjoyed them, but he doesn’t watch “Castle”, and I had a hard time explaining to him that the picture on the back cover of the books was of an actor, and that Richard Castle was a fictional character (“But, it gives his biography here on the flap!” “Yeah, dad, that’s fictional, too. The book’s written by a ghost writer.”)

Ten years ago, dad would have totally understood the joke of it. Now, I just smile and nod; it’s not worth confusing him more.

While the literature itself is less high-brow, IMHO “pretending” there’s a real Richard Castle is no more stupidity-inducing than pretending there was a real Sherlock Holmes, a.k.a. The Great Game.

I don’t really see a problem with it either from the perspective of a writer or a reader.

The reality of the writing business is that there are a very large number of people who want to make it a profession, and a relatively small number who actually make enough money to pay the bills. An established author might consider it a negative, but an aspiring writer would be smart to take this on if they had the opportunity. The people who matter (publishers) would still know who the real writer was. You could still put it on your resume. It’s also possible the deal was written as “You write one Castle book uncredited, and we publish one of your other books.” Again, for the right person, that’s a sweet deal.

As for readers, I think that the book should disclose the “joke” somewhere that there’s no real Richard Castle, just to make sure that no one is confused. (After all, a book like that would make me wonder whether the show Castle is based on a real person in some way.) But as long as people can easily find out the truth, there’s no harm done by reading a fictional book written as if a fictional person wrote it. Since the book doesn’t clearly disclose that… I have some mixed feelings about it, but I don’t think we can blame stupidity on it in any way.

The real author is Tom Straw. Straw is a script writer who also wrote a mystery novel under his own name.

It happens all the time; ghostwriters have been in the writing business for decades. You usually get paid a flat fee. One example of ghostwritten books are the Tek Wars book “by William Shatner.” (Though Shatner always credited his ghosts in his acknowledgements.)

There was also “Venus on the Half Shell” by “Kilgore Trout.” Trout was a fictional author who shows up in Kurt Vonnegut novels. Philip Jose Farmer wrote the book.

Established authors rarely use ghosts. Ellery Queen and V. C. Andrews are exceptions; Queen wrote most of the novels credited to him, but a few were done by ghosts (including Theodore Sturgeon and Avram Davidson, successful SF writers). Andrews died and her estate hired authors to write more.

But that’s very unusual. In fiction, an established author is going to put her own name on the cover only if she has written the book (though some will add names of collaborators).

I, Libertine was a fake book that was eventually turned into a real novel as by “Frederick R. Ewing.” Theodore Sturgeon actually wrote it.

Usually authors are hired because they have a track record of producing work quickly and to order. I knew someone who wrote a novel that was something of a test: he was later hired to ghost some tie-ins as a pseudonym. Sometimes the publisher knows the writer and chooses him.

Most authors react to this by thinking, “I wish I had that gig.” It’s a way of getting your writing out and paying the bills while you write what you really want to. I don’t know of anyone who was mocked for ghostwriting.

And since it’s been done for ages, it’s not a sign of dumbing down. The Hardy Boys and other Stratemeyer Syndicate books have been doing it since the 30s. “Nick Carter” started writing his “own” mysteries in 1886, using a variety of authors.

Thanks for the replies. I’m learning some things about the business.

I hadn’t thought of that, but that makes sense.

When I was about 10, I read The Andromeda Strain. While I sort of knew that the book was fiction, the huge reference section in the back, listing books and articles (or, more accurately, “books” and “articles”) that related to the events in the book had me scratching my head wondering if some of the book was true. Then later seeing that there was an actual Dr. Jeremy Stone (though he is an economist, not a biologist) out there really confused me.

I’ve never read any of the “Nikki Heat” books, and have no idea whether they’re any good. But I’d expect that MOST of the people who buy them are fans of the TV show who know perfectly well that “Richard Castle” isn’t a real person and that Nathan Filion didn’t write the books.

So, I don’t see any harm or any deception.

The closest comparison I can come up with is… the TV cartoon group “the Archies” weren’t a real rock band. But a group of studio musicians recorded a few pop hits as “The Archies” and the songs were played on the cartoon show A few of those songs (most notably “Sugar Sugar”) became big hits.

Was that deceptive? I don’t see how. If a little girl liked “Sugar Sugar,” bought the record, and danced to it happily, she got just what she paid for…

If someone who likes the TV series Castle gives a Nikki Heat novel a try and enjoys it, I don’t see the problem.

As for the “real” writers of the books… I have no idea how much they get paid. That’s between them, their agents, and the publishers. I know Andy Kim and Jeff Barry, who wrote “Sugar, Sugar,” got loads of royalties and the actual studio session men who played the song probably got paid by the hour. So it goes.

The Murder, She Wrote books are similar. However, they do show Donald Bain as well as Jessica Fletcher, as the authors.

I’d tell you to go talk it over with Richard (“Thinner”) Bachman, except he’s dead.

They’re tiny, they barely qualify as novellas.

There’s a series of western novels about a character named Longarm that are all written by “Tabor Evans”. There is no Tabor Evans; the books were written by several different authors. I went to the trouble once of tracking down as many of the actual writers as I could in order to write this article.

I would love to be Richard Castle’s ghost writer. I write the books, they become best-sellers, and I don’t have to do any goddamn promotion at all. Just cash the checks. That is my kind of a book deal.

Oh, and PS, if there are any book signings, I would guess that Nathan Fillion is the one who appears, and he gets paid. Actual authors don’t get paid for book signings. Even if your publisher sends you on tour and pays for all your travel and accommodations, you still don’t get paid for your time, and it’s a drag. (I guess there are authors who like it. I don’t, though.)

I believe Fillion has done some signings but he signs the books as Nathan Fillion not as Rick Castle.

I was going to read one of the Nikki Heat novels, but it was too long. Let me know when William Goldman comes out with an abridged version, and I’ll be all over it.

That’s not the way I heard it. Ellery Queen is a completely fictional character, much like Richard Castle, and was both a character in many of the novels, and the credited “author” of many of those novels. He never really existed. Among the ghost writers who wrote the actual novels was my favorite author of all time, SF writer Jack Vance.

I meant “Ellery Queen” as Frederick Dannay and Manfred Lee. A pseudonym, but one that was consistent. Word had it that one of the two was great at constructing puzzles, but poor at characterization (probably Lee) and the other was good at characterization, but poor at constructing mysteries.

Dannay and Lee wrote most of the novels featuring Ellery Queen, but Avram Davidson wrote three and Theodore Sturgeon wrote one.

Vance did write three novels using the Ellery Queen byline, but they did not feature Queen the detective.

My girlfriend and I are fans of the show, so when I came across a Nikki Heat book at a used bookshop, I decided to check it out just for kicks. It’s pretty “light” (guilty pleasure) type of reading. But they’re hilarious. What makes them so funny is that (and I’m sure this was intentional), it’s pretty much reading a script for a “Castle” episode. All the main characters are there, only with their names changed. So if you read it and simply imagine all the “Castle” characters as the book characters, it’s just like an episode.