Three books in, and he’s already one of the best in the business.
If you haven’t read any of Matthew Betley’s stuff, move him straight to the top of your reading list. . . he’s that good.
Betley, who is published by the same publishing house as Brad Thor and the late Vince Flynn, burst onto the thriller scene back in 2016 with his hit debut novel, Overwatch, which introduced readers to former Marine Logan West. With a killer opening scene that involved Logan answering a dead man’s cell phone, which inadvertently kicked off a series of dangerous events he never could have imagined, Betley grabbed readers’ attention and has never let go.
If anything, he’s tightened his grip.
Part of Betley’s magic is that he’s not only a great writer (his third-person close writing style is gritty and personal), but he can weave pop culture references into current themes and nonstop action, which has sort of become his calling card — action on top of more action, wrapped in an explosion on top of a gunfight. Plus, his dialogue is some of the best in the business.
Sharp, witty, honest, and dripping with sarcasm at all the right times, Betley’s characters talk the way you’d expect real people to interact with one another. That’s especially true when it comes to the way Logan and his pal John Quick communicate. There’s no cheesy CSI: Miami one-liners, but Betley does get how to cut the tension with humor, something I suspect comes naturally to him because of his own sarcastic personality — which he basically admits to below.
Just ahead of his new book hitting store shelves, Betley was kind enough to go on the record for our Five Questions segment, and I asked him everything from what kind of research he had to do for this book to what’s going on with the film adaptation of Overwatch. See the Q&A below, then keep scrolling to read more about Field of Valor, available everywhere tomorrow, Tuesday, March 22.
Most importantly, if you haven’t already, pre-order your copy here!
Field of Valor: Five Questions with Matthew Betley
TRBS: You’ve quickly become one of the best thriller authors working in your genre, and this book is just further proof of that. . . it’s absolutely lights-out and has one of the best openings I’ve ever read. How did you come up with the plot idea for Field of Valor, and what kind of research did you have to do before actually sitting down to write it?
Betley: “I had a good friend of mine — a Marine lieutenant colonel — give me grief about the opening of Oath of Honor. He said, ‘Dude, how come no one got shot until page 27?’ to which I responded, ‘Fine. Watch what I do with the third book.’ And I came up with the opening and the structure of the book based on that one goal — to start it with an intense, emotional, action-packed bang. . . .kind of like all of my books.
“As for research, it varied. For example, I did a lot of online research on mini submersibles and yachts, to the point where I was spending hours taking virtual tours and learning about mechanics. I’m particularly proud of the fact that I was given a private tour by one of the docents at the National Cathedral for that sequence, and I spent a morning at the Udvar-Hazy Center, speaking to docents there and taking tons of photographs. Unfortunately, you can’t visit every place you write about, but in today’s day and age, there are limitless resources to pull from to create a sequence that is believable to readers. Then again, for me, it’s really about the characters. I’d like to think I could take my team and drop them inside a Chick-fil-A and make it wildly entertaining. You never know — I just might do that.”
TRBS: Logan West and John Quick are great characters, and I love their sarcastic, back-and-forth dialogue. How much of their personalities are actually taken from you, and how are you different from them?
Betley: “You already know the answer to this, as we’ve spent a lot of time chatting about publishing. When I first started writing, I took the old adage of ‘write what you know’ to heart. Thus, I split my personality in half — I gave Logan the intense, angry, alcoholic side of me (fortunately, I’ve got 9+ years of sobriety and never relapsed the way Logan did on page one of Overwatch); and I gave John Quick my daily, self-deprecating, Marine-Corps-honed sarcasm, which is how I truly talk to people. . . which might be a little dangerous on my part, now that I think of it. It’s why the dialogue is so easy to write, as it’s just a conversation I’m having in my head. . . not out loud. . . that might draw attention.”
TRBS: What is your writing process like, and do you ever plan out future books while you’re writing one?
Betley: “My writing process hasn’t changed since Day One. I’m a huge movie fan, and I’ve listened for years to scores from the most intense movies. As a result, I put on my Bose earbuds, I hit play on music composed by any one of a number of composers — Hans Zimmer, Lorne Balfe, Brian Tyler, Steve Jablonsky, etc. — and I’m off to the races. I don’t actually feel like a writer. . . more of a scribe, as I see the action in my head, hear the dialogue, feel the emotion, and type away. Next thing I know, I’ve got several pages done. As for future books, I’m always thinking about it, and I have the next two plot ideas in my head, especially since my books are all connected.”
TRBS: Back in February, news broke that Thunder Road acquired the movie rights to your first novel, Overwatch. Any updates on the movie front?
Betley: “We were thrilled to finally reach a deal for the movie franchise with Thunder Road Pictures, an amazing company that has produced the John Wick series, Sicario, and other excellent movies that my books fit well with. We’re fortunate that Braden Aftergood has been named to produce, and the adaptation of Overwatch is already moving forward as we speak. Braden has produced Wind River and Hell or High Water in the last two years, as well as Lone Survivor and Battleship. I’m extremely excited to see where this goes, as I know the entire team will deliver an A+ product for audiences to enjoy. I have a very visual writing style, and these books were written in such a way to be translated easily into film.”
TRBS: Lastly, now that this book is coming out, what’s next for you? Will you start working on the next Logan West thriller right away, and if so, what can you tell us about the fourth book?
Betley: “Already on it. I’m 100+ pages into it, in the middle of a pretty wild mountaintop sequence in South America, and that’s after we started off the ride in the Caribbean at a location I always wanted to write an action sequence at, which is all I’ll reveal about the locations. I will say that the book picks up a little more than two weeks after the end of Field of Valor, and my intent is to finally wrap up the initial story arc involving the Organization and the conspirators behind it. After that, it’s books five and six, which should keep me busy for more than a hot minute.”
Set in the aftermath of Betley’s “machine-gun pace” (Booklist) Oath of Honor and the discovery of a deadly global conspiracy, the president requests Logan West to form a covert task force with the mission to dismantle a nameless enemy.
With the full resources of the Justice Department, Intelligence Community, and the military (not to mention presidential pardons pre-signed), Logan must battle a secret organization with the connections and funding to rival many first-world nations. The goal of this organization is both singular and sinister—to pit the United States against China in a bid to dismantle the world’s security and economy. Back on US soil, Logan and his task force pursue the elusive foe from the woods of northern Virginia to the banks of the Chesapeake Bay, from suburban Maryland across the urban sprawl of Washington DC. The stakes have never been higher for Logan or America itself…
Praised as “one of today’s finest book reviewers” by New York Times bestselling author Gayle Lynds, Ryan Steck (“The Godfather of the thriller genre” — Ben Coes) has “quickly established himself as the authority on mysteries and thrillers” (Author A.J. Tata). He currently lives in Southwest Michigan with his wife and their six children.