Matthew Betley is an extremely interesting guy, with a focus on the extreme, as he often jokes that moderation is a word he can’t spell.
A New Jersey native who considers Cincinnati his home, Betley is a former Marine officer of ten years who deployed to Djibouti after September 11, and Iraq, prior to The Surge. He’s written a number of articles for Town Hall and the Weekly Standard, tackling topics such as alcoholism, VA issues plaguing veterans, the NFL kneeling controversy, and more.
You may have seen him on Fox News recently, and if you follow him on Twitter, then you’ll see his take on a number of political issues, as he weighs in often with generally sound, concise arguments that often reveal a deep love of country. There’s no question – patriotism runs deep within Betley. So, too, does his sarcastic wit, but that’s another story. While he’s not yet being paid by any media outlet (someone should call him), he’s earned a reputation for being a mostly spot-on critic of movies and television. He’s even a self-proclaimed “gamer” who regularly tweets about video games he’s playing—including Destiny 2 and Tom Clancy’s The Division 2.
And . . . oh, by the way, he’s also one of the best action-thriller novelists on the planet.
Few writers explode on to the scene the way Betley did a few years back when Overwatch (2016), his exciting debut, first landed in bookstores. Working with the same editor and publishing team as other icons in the genre such as Vince Flynn and Brad Thor, Betley came out of the gate swinging, introducing readers to – get this – a sarcastic former marine who struggles with alcoholism. Sound familiar? That’s because in a lot of ways, Logan West, Betley’s protagionist, is partially Matthew Betley himself.
The same is true for Logan’s partner-in-crime, John Quick. In fact, last year in an in-depth interview with Betley, the author told me, “Logan is the very serious, angry side of me that most people will never ever see. That kind of focus and mindset that you get before you go on a mission, or something like that. John Quick is my day-to-day sarcastic self, in how I interact with pretty much everybody. You can see my sarcasm on Twitter or in my interviews because, even though I’ve had a very serious life, I don’t take myself too seriously. Life is just too short for that.”
This time around, that focus and mindset, along with another heavy dose of sarcasm (some critics indicated he uses too much sarcasm—they’re wrong), has led to Betley producing his best, most action-packed, most over-the-top thriller to date. And that is really something when you look at his body of work.
But Rules of War is more than just one of the hottest thrillers coming out this summer, and Betley has proven, unequivocally, that he’s far more than a one-trick pony. Aside from the gunfights and adrenaline-pumping action, of which there is plenty, Betley manages to infuse a plethora of emotional elements into the story as well—and with it, a real ability to manipulate readers’ emotions. How, exactly? To find that out, you’ll have to buy his book.
Just ahead of the release of his fourth Logan West thriller, Matthew Betley agreed to go back on the record for our Five Questions segment, and I asked him about everything from what sort of research he had to do before sitting down to write this one to what’s next for Logan West moving forward. Read the full Q&A below, then make sure to order your copy of Rules of War, in stores everywhere July 16th.
TRBS: I don’t know how you manage to do it, but you topped yourself once again . . . Rules of War is awesome! How did you come up with the story idea for this one?
Betley: This was a book that was two years in the planning. When I first started writing the Logan West series, knowing as little as I did about the business, I envisioned at least three books. But then, based upon the success of Overwatch, I landed another two-book deal, and three books became four. At that point, I realized this was something that I wanted to do for not just three or four books, but twenty, if the market will have me. As a result, I plotted out not just book four, but books five and six.
As for Rules specifically, my other books had been set in North America, Mexico, Iraq, Alaska, Europe, and Africa. As a result, I really wanted to set a book in South America in a country that was a center of instability. I’d been following the state of the Venezuelan economy, watching as hyperinflation rose to more than a million percent, and I realized two years ago that I had to set this one there. It also fit in perfectly with the story, as RULES picks up only a few weeks where Field of Valor ended.
TRBS: What sort of research did you have to do before actually sitting down to write this one?
Betley: A LOT. For a variety of reasons, I can’t exactly hop on a flight to Venezuela. So I did what all really good authors can do – internet research, to the point of ad nauseam. It’s truly amazing what people post on the internet – vacation videos, family photos, historical documents, etc. – and the trick was finding what I needed, verifying the authenticity, and then creating my set pieces. For the one sequence that takes place in MD, the Calvert County Sheriff’s Office was kind of enough to have me for a ride along, which was a fantastic experience to get a good feel for the gear, tactics, techniques, and procedures that they use. Police put their lives on the line every single day, and I tried to honor that courage and dedication in that part of the book.
TRBS: How far out do you plan storylines? Do you think about future books as you’re writing one, or just focus on the current book at hand?
Betley: I’m always thinking ahead, even while I’m focused on the current book. For me, the Logan West & Friends universe is an adult thriller amusement park, where each book is a major ride, but they’re all interconnected. The characters, like real people, are always changing dynamically in my head. As a result, I’m constantly thinking of plot lines and stories to put them through so that they can evolve on the pages. For Rules, there is one specific fan-favorite character that I intentionally put through the ringer to set up for book five. It’s traumatic for this character, and it’s going to be traumatic for the reader, but it was necessary, as it’s this character that is going to be the major focus of the fifth story.
TRBS: As anyone who follows you on Twitter knows, you’re pretty into movies . . . you’ve even become my go-to source for deciding which films to go see in theatres! What are a few of your favorite movies so far this year, and what shows are you currently binge-watching?
Betley: Currently, I’m binge-watching Season 3 of Stranger Things. As a kid who was 13 in 1985, that show resonates completely with me. It’s absolutely fantastic, and I love every nostalgic second of it. As for movies, as you said, everyone knows I have opinions on almost every movie I see. Some years are harder to pick favorites than others (I still remember the year that had The Last Samurai, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Open Range; what a great year for films; 2003), but this year, it’s easy – my overall favorite is Toy Story 4. It’s such a beautiful movie about friendship and sacrifice, as well as hilarious and incredibly entertaining. It also has hands-down the best cameo for any character this year. That movie nailed every aspect of the story. BUT we’re not done yet. My other favorite movie of this year – and this is no surprise, considering I write action thrillers for a living – is John Wick 3 There are sequences in that movie that I thought to myself, I should have written this. Lol. I think it’s the best of the three, as it added new dimensions to the action from the very beginning of the film. They raised the bar, and it will be fascinating to see how they maintain or increase it for JW 4. JW 3 was also the most FUN I’ve had in a theater in years with people. There were so many laughs and jaw-dropping moments that the entire audience was in synch as one living organism. It was awesome.
TRBS: Lastly, now that RULES OF WAR is set to come out, what’s next for you and Logan West?
Betley: It’s been a rough year. I let my first big agent go, but I’m now thrilled to be partnered with Ann Rittenberg, hopefully for years to come. This is a BRUTAL business, as every author knows, except maybe the lucky few, the .01%, who explode on to the scene. With RULES OF WAR, I’m at a critical point in my career, and we’re hoping it’s a tipping point. I’ve been fortunate and honored that RULES was picked by Dana Perino on Fox News as her July selection for the Dana Perino Book Club on Fox Nation. I was also humbled to be on her show, The Daily Briefing, on Fox News talking about the books, but more importantly, the VA and the Open Burn Pits issue. (Readers can Google my Broken Promises series at Townhall.com to learn more about that fiasco.) With all of the recent exposure and publicity, we’re hoping that readers will really start to spread the word and bring new people to the series. Like I said, books five and six are planned in my head, and I’m about to start writing. Also, as most people now know, we lost the signed movie contract we had with Thunder Road when they re-evaluated several projects and my producer left the project to manage Sylvester Stallone’s Balboa Productions. (What are the odds?) So we’re back to the drawing board and looking for a new home for either the movie or a streaming service series.
Lastly, I’d just like to thank the readers and followers because without them, there is no Logan West. First and foremost, they are what matter most. And for that, I thank them. I’m not going anywhere, and I hope they aren’t as well. Until the next time, and as always, Semper Fidelis.
Praised as “One of the hardest working, most thoughtful, and fairest reviewers out there” by #1 New York Times bestselling author Lisa Scottoline, Ryan Steck has “quickly established himself as the authority on mysteries and thrillers” (Author A.J. Tata). Steck also works full-time as a freelance editor and pens a monthly thriller column for CrimeReads. For more information, be sure to follow him on Twitter and Facebook. He currently lives in Southwest Michigan with his wife and their six children.