There are some TV tie-in novels that I’ve enjoyed – for Burn Notice1, Psych2 and Monk3, however they all had a certain pulpiness in common. Not just because they immediately came out in paperback (which I’ve always taken as a sign of the publisher putting in less effort because they don’t expect to make a lot of money from the book), but because they were a bit hobbled by their connection to the TV series. The writers can’t kill off or otherwise make any major changes to the characters, their back story or setting – something writers of original novels can do at will.
Heat Wave is different – it’s meta-fiction. In the TV series Richard Castle is a writer, and has written a book called Heat Wave - this book is written as if it is that book, by him. For a brief while we get to live inside the world of the TV series because we can read the book that they’re reading. The illusion is maintained flawlessly – from the dedication and afterword to the picture on the back cover.
An advantage Heat Wave has over most (if not all) other tie-in novels is that because it’s supposed to have been written by the TV character instead of about the TV character, the actual author can change things without causing any problems. Any differences to the TV series are put down to the meta-author changing the names to protect the innocent or improving on (what is to him) real life by making it juicier.
A difference between the TV series and the book is that Castle is the main character of the series, but Nikki Heat is the main character of the book. The main difference this makes is that although a good portion of the series is dedicated to Castle’s personal life, that aspect is almost completely missing from the book. Once again the meta nature of the book smooths this over – Castle’s mother gets a cameo in the book, and if you’ve seen the TV series you can easily imagine her haranguing her son to be written in. His daughter is completely missing, but as a protective father you can imagine Richard Castle wanting to spare her any embarrassment by leaving her out.
The book is further tied back into the TV series by the actual cover being used in an episode and the actual page number of a sex scene in the book (p105) mentioned in the episode.