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Interview: John Betcher, Author of The 19th Element, A James Becker Thriller

A University of Minnesota Law School graduate, John Betcher has practiced law for more than 25 years in the Mississippi River community of Red Wing, Minnesota.  John Betcher’s The 19th Element is part of the “A James Becker Thriller” series.  An additional book, The Missing Element, is also part of this extraordinary series. Mr. Betcher possesses substantial first-hand knowledge of the key to the novels, the Prairie River Nuclear Plant’s real world counterpart, as well as Red Wing’s airport and the flight rules around the nuke plant, thus lending depth to his novels on such topics.

In addition to writing, Mr. Betcher has also been a long-time supporter and coach of youth volleyball in and around Red Wing as well as having authored three feature articles for Coaching Volleyball, the journal of the American Volleyball Coaches Association.

To find out more about John Betcher and  his work, please be sure to visit his website.

Please tell us a bit about your book: The 19th Element, A James Becker Thriller – characters, plot, etc.

In The 19th Element, Al Qaeda plans to attack Minnesota’s Prairie River Nuclear Power Plant as a means to return the down-trodden terrorist organization to international prominence. In addition to their own devoted forces, the terrorists enlist two homegrown anarchists, and a Three Mile Island survivor with a pathological vendetta against the nuclear establishment, to assist in the assault.

James “Beck” Becker is a former elite U.S. government intelligence operative who has retired to his childhood hometown of Red Wing, Minnesota – just six miles down the Mississippi from the Prairie River nuclear facility.

Possessing wisdom born of experience, Beck suspects the terrorists’ intentions as soon as the body of a university professor turns up on the Mississippi shore – the clear victim of foul play. He recognizes connections between seemingly unrelated incidents – the murdered agronomy professor, a missing lab assistant, an international cell call, a stolen fertilizer truck – but can’t piece it together in enough detail to convince government authorities that a larger threat exists. Only his American Indian friend, “Bull,” will help Beck defuse the threat.

So it’s Beck and Bull versus international terror. May the better men win.

If you could meet, in person, any of your characters, who would it be and why?

I would want to meet Bull. He’s an American Indian with an enigmatic past. I know he has military skills and is fiercely loyal to Beck. But I want to know what he’s been up to for the past twenty years. And most of all, I want to know what makes him tick.

If you could fictionalize yourself and put yourself in any situation, how would it play out? Could you give us a scene/scenario of such an occurrence?

I would re-create myself as the Head Coach of the U.S. Women’s Olympic Volleyball Team. I would place myself and my team on the cusp of the Olympic Gold Medal match versus Brazil.

Brazil would have the better international ranking – as well as the more athletically talented players. But the American team would have determination and display unparalleled teamwork. Of course, each team would win two of the first four sets. The last set would be a come-from-behind victory for the U.S., won on a stuff block against Brazil’s best hitter.

Do you have any particular habits that you do while writing? Places you write the best, foods, drinks, etc that help set your “writing mood”?

My favorite place to write is at my home in Red Wing. I prefer writing while seated in a comfortable chair, or on an overstuffed sofa – my notebook computer on my lap.

In the early stages of a novel, I might have some 1970s Classic Rock (Rolling Stones, Creedence, Alice Cooper) on the radio in the background. I prefer silence for editing and re-writes.

I might drink some Diet Mountain Dew while writing. But I don’t eat while working.

What are you reading right now?

I don’t have a novel in progress at the moment. The last two I read were: And Glory, by Andrew Ian Dodge, and The Midas Bomb, by Steven Moore – both indie-published writers. At present, I am reading lots of internet websites to bring myself up to date on the operations of drug cartels in Mexico. They will figure prominently in the next Beck book.

About April Pohren

  • John L. Betcher

    Hi April,

    Thanks for the interview and sharing your blog. Also thanks to your readers.

    I had fun doing this interview.

  • April

    Hi John! Thanks so much for your wonderful answers! I can’t wait to experience your work first hand.