Mailbag: Who writes those Richard Castle books?

By Rich Heldenfels
Beacon Journal popular culture writer

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Nathan Fillion stars in ABC's series, "Castle," a wildly famous mystery novelist, Richard Castle who is bored with his own success, learns that a real-world copycat killer has started staging murders from scenes depicted in his novels. Castle is questioned by NYPD Detective Kate Beckett (Stana Katic, "The Spirit"), a bright and aggressive detective who keeps her investigations under a tight rein. Though they instantly clash, sparks of another sort also begin to fly, leading both to danger and a hint of romance as Castle steps in to help find the killer. (ABC/ERIC LIEBOWITZ)

If it’s Thursday, this must be the mailbag.

Q: I am confused, is Nathan Fillion actually Richard Castle the author, or is his picture just used in the “Nikki Heat” books? I like the show, I like the books but the books have Nathan Fillion’s picture in the back, as, you guessed it, Richard Castle.

A: It’s a bit of show-biz gimmickry, not unlike the mystery novels that appeared under the name Jessica Fletcher — the fictional writer played by Angela Lansbury on Murder, She Wrote, with Lansbury’s picture on the cover. Since Fillion is the face of the fictional novelist Richard Castle, it is his image you see on the books, which include Naked Heat, Heat Rises, Heat Wave and Frozen Heat. Fillion has also appeared at book signings for the Castle novels, but reports from those signings say he appears as himself, not in character as Richard Castle.

That being said, it’s by no means clear who actually writes the novels. The book publisher, Hyperion, has a clearly comical biography of Castle online and has not revealed a real-life writer. Real-life novelists like James Patterson, Michael Connelly and the late Stephen J. Cannell played themselves as friends of Castle on the show, so some readers have speculated one of them wrote the Heat novels. I prefer another theory, that Castle’s books are written by author Tom Straw; the Hyperion biography says Castle won the “Nom DePlume Society’s prestigious Tom Straw Award for Mystery Literature,” and nom de plume is another way of saying “pen name.”

Q: Was “The Finder” renewed? And, if so, what will happen now that Michael Clarke Duncan has passed away?

A: The Fox series, which co-starred Duncan, was canceled in May, after a single season on the air. Duncan, also known for the movie The Green Mile, died in September.

Q: Is the TV show “Mockingbird Lane” with Jerry O’Connell going to be airing new episodes?

A: So far, the reboot of The Munsters consists only of the pilot, which NBC aired on Oct. 26 as a Halloween-themed special. It drew a reported 5.4 million viewers, did relatively well with young adults (at least by Friday-night standards) and helped draw viewers to NBC’s Grimm. But at this writing, the network still has not ordered more episodes.

Q: When I was a child (I am now 64) I remember two Christmas specials that we just couldn’t miss every year. They were marionette presentations of the birth of Christ, quoting the scripture from Luke for the storyline, and of the poem “The Night Before Christmas.” Do you know if they are available on DVD? I do not know the producer or any other information.

A: You are looking for a special called The Spirit of Christmas, which included both the Nativity story and Clement Moore’s poem as performed by marionettes. Mabel Beaton, in conjunction with her husband, Leslie, was responsible for the program, which aired often on TV beginning in the ’50s. According to a 2001 obituary for Mabel at CapeCodOnline.com, she “sculpted more than 200 lifelike heads for the marionettes that were seen in films made for the Council of Churches, for television and for schools and libraries.” The Beatons also wrote a book about marionettes. Leslie died in 1965. In 1999, Mabel received the Puppeteers of America’s George Latshaw Award for “accomplishments in writing and publishing in the field of puppetry.”

The Spirit of Christmas seems to be a particular favorite in Philadelphia, so much that the DVD release is called The Spirit of Christmas: The Philadelphia Holiday Classic. If your local retailer does not have the DVD, I have seen it for sale on Amazon.com and Moviesunlimited.com. And those of you who are curious about the production but do not want to buy it can see the segments on YouTube.

Do you have a question or comment for the mailbag? Write to the Akron Beacon Journal, 44 E. Exchange St., Akron, OH 44309 or rheldenfels@thebeaconjournal.com. Please mark the email or envelope with “mailbag.” Letters may be edited for publication. Please do not phone in questions. Individual replies cannot be guaranteed.

Rich Heldenfels writes about popular culture for the Beacon Journal and in the HeldenFiles Online blog at www.ohio.com/blogs/heldenfiles. He is also on Twitter and Facebook.


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