Television Q&A

Authorship of ‘Nikki Heat’ novels a mystery

 

Akron Beacon Journal

Q. Is Nathan Fillion actually Richard Castle the author of the “Nikki Heat” novels? I like the show and the books, but I’m confused because they have Fillion’s picture in the back, as, you guessed it, Richard Castle.

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 on ABC’s Castle, it is his image you see on the books, which include Naked Heat, Heat Rises, Heat Wave and Frozen Heat. Fillion has appeared at book signings for the Castle novels — sometimes with Castle co-star (and “Nikki Heat” inspiration) Stana Katic — but as himself, not in character as Richard Castle.

That said, it’s by no means clear who actually writes the novels. The publisher, Hyperion, has a clearly comical biography of Castle online and has not revealed the author’s identity. Real-life novelists James Patterson, Michael Connelly and the late Stephen J. Cannell have 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 Tom Straw, a TV writer and producer with a 2007 crime novel to his credit. 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. When I was a child (I am now 64), there were 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?

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 beginning in the 1950s.

According to a 2001 obituary, Mabel “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 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 it, I have seen it for sale on the Amazon and Movies Unlimited websites. Segments of it can be viewed on YouTube.

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

The Fox series, which co-starred Duncan, was canceled in May after a single season. Duncan, also known for the movie The Green Mile, died in September at age 54. Q. Is the TV show Mockingbird Lane with Jerry O’Connell and Portia de Rossi going to be airing new episodes?

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 has not ordered more episodes.

Send questions to rheldenfels@thebeaconjournal.com or TV Mailbag, Akron Beacon Journal, 44 E. Exchange St., Akron, OH 44309 . Replies cannot be guaranteed.

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