Why, yes, I just read a media tie-in book, purportedly penned by the fictional character in a teevee show.
For those of you not aware, Castle is a teevee show where a popular mystery writer, played by the squee-worthy Canadian, Nathan Fillion, shadows a cop in her quest for truth and justice and stuff. Oh, and also, her mom was murdered, which makes her deep. I like the show. It's one of those unlikely, will-they-or-won't-they stylized procedurals that isn't afraid to pull a meta gag now and then, but doesn't rely on them. This is one of the books that Castle supposedly wrote based on the cop.
This was not as bad as it could have been. (There's a blurb for you right there.) The prose is workmanlike popular fiction writing, the kind that spends more time using cop slang in a self-conscious and slightly precious manner, rather than the kind that over-describes clothing and hair. (This may be the main distinction, to me at least, between chick-lit and dick-lit.) I want to say it reads like television, but maybe it just reads like a television script? The descriptions of New York locales are pretty google-y, the kind of stuff I “know” from watching cop shows. The action sequences are...and I almost said bad here, but they're not bad in the sense I couldn't tell what was happening, but bad in the sense that they were boring. Like you'd write for a script and expect the actors and fight choreographers to fill in the gaps. And then she scissor-kicked, and then he fell hard on the floor, etc. And then there was a lot of scissor-kicking, which seems awkward and weird to me. But then I am sure I have never scissor-kicked, and I will deny it up until video is produced.
The dialogue is better, that sort of light banter-y stuff that works well when attractive people you like are pitching it, and that's more or less what you're supposed to be imagining. But the banter scenes never work up to character-defining, just bits of comic relief before someone pulls out the gumball and discusses the TOD with the perp. The plot is, well, the plot is what it is, a series of red herrings and gotchas, the kind of thing that starts with two murrrrrders that are completely unrelated
, but then, as you expect, LOLsyke. I liked the two winks I caught: one where there are two detectives named Malcolm & Reynolds – Firefly represent! - and one where there's a little jab about ghostwriters. The line that made me laugh out loud was when Nikki Heat had a “literal gun to her head.” Literally! A literal gun! Literally at her head! Hahahahaha. Oh, Jesus, really?
Nikki Heat comes off as competent to the point of boring, but not to the point of Mary Sue, and strangely prissy for a police officer. She doesn't like when people cuss, and finds the gallow's humor of some of her fellow officers callous and unfeeling. From my long and intimate knowledge of life behind the blue line, precious knowledge gained from watching lots and lots of cop shows, I find this hilarious. There's a subplot where one of her co-workers learns a valuable lesson about the humanity of the vic, and how you shouldn't use a punny name on the DB before CSU tags the toe. Anyway, this is the other place where it reads like tv - cop life is portrayed so relentlessly PG that I think that it kinda damages one of the reasons for reading popular crime novels: for lurid kicks. Come on, let's have some hardened streetwalkers and badly done NY accents, some crime scene photos and blood splatter. I don't know, I don't think tv translates that well to books, because it's about the gotcha shot, and that's hard to pull off in print without looking stupid. (There's lots of chapter here that have a dundun! cut to commercial! feel.) It's easier to brood and look deep; it's a lot harder to be deep when we keep being privy to every expository thought.
So, this is the thing, who wrote this? I'm super curious, partially because of the recent stuff with V S Naipaul
being a dickweed and claiming he could identify any prose by a woman, because prose by women sucks. At some point in all of the facebooking and chitter-chat about this, I pointed out that you never read anything without knowing the gender of the author. Well, hello, words, I will eat you now. I have my theory as to the gender of the ghostwriter – I think it's a chick – not because it's bad but because the guy characters think like chick-lit characters. Notice I'm not saying they think like women, but like male characters written by women. I could be totally wrong, and will gladly eat crow-sandwich when the ghostwriter is unmasked. My hedge is that everyone seems to glory our lady cop beyond the bounds – she's so smart and talented and pretty and stuff – and maybe this is just protagonist glory I'm reading from how Rook – the Castle stand-in – reacts to her. I'm worried about how she feeeeels! I will not push her because I luuuuurve her!
Anyway, now I'm going to get into a bunch of personal reverie stuff, so if you don't like that, skip it. Real review over. I picked this up at the Ben Franklin in Grand Marais – the kind of place that has a paper on the sales counter that reads “Canadian dollar = on parity” - because I couldn't resist a shit-read for when I was up at the cabin.
It's right by the candy on a little wheelie thingee! It must be good!
Right behind me was this aisle:
Which was absolutely chock-full of local interest stuff that is totally local, but not of much interest. There's a series here...wait...I have a close up...
Starting with Hidden Chance: Secrets of the Hermit's Hideaway (Youth Outdoor Adventure Series), which all about going canoing in the BWCA and then oh noes! A murrrderrr, or something, I have no idea. There's memoirs of flower identification and Scandinavian joke books, and reveries of hiking, and photos of ice-fishing shacks (this one I considered buying) and all kinds of whatnot. Amazing amassing of mostly self-published local fare, a cornucopia of treats from the up-northers. I admit I've bought some of this stuff for the in-laws, as Xmas gifts, and I stopped when my mother-in-law started responding in kind. You know what I don't care about? A book of New Hampshire slang. Sorry, MIL! Why would you care about a wild rice cookbook?
Anyway, this is the thing I'm winding to: I finally figured out where all the WWII memoirists went. After the War, every single American soldier wrote a memoir of his service. Seriously, there's like a billion of those, and it always seemed like this anomalous literary flowering of the GI set, an endless series of personal experience run through the cliché of the fire of war. I'm not bagging these stories, but they are what they are, which is mostly bullshit. Sixty-some-odd years hence, there's still a flowering of writing, but it's about hills and localities, the big fish stories and the unlikely murrderrrs of the North woods, a series of cookbooks and jokes. That's awesome. I can't figure at the moment, because I'm super sleepy, what this change means, but maybe it's just a thing, two generations who haven't gone to war, so we default to flowers and the Gunflint Trail. Does this say something about nationalism, about the situation of the citizen? Fuck if I know.