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

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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.

Who are some of your favorite authors and/or books?

One of my favorite authors is the late Robert B. Parker. In particular, I enjoyed his “Spenser” detective series. I’m also a fan of Vince Flynn, Brian Haig, Barry Eisler, John Sandford and Kurt Vonnegut, among others.

If you could meet any author, dead or alive, who would it be and why?

I would choose The Apostle, Paul. He was writing at a time when the world was such a different place from what it is today. I’d like to hear his opinions on how some of his Gospels are being interpreted today. I’d also like to understand better his views on women and marriage.

Okay, here are a few “get to know you better” questions:

Please share with us a favorite memory.

The births of both of my daughters – Anne and Kate. Life is such a miracle!

Please describe a perfect meal – including menu and those present.

I’m not fussy about food, so the menu is determined more by the people and the location. My favorite meal would be in a 10’ by 20’ ice house in the middle of Lake of the Woods, Minnesota in February. Those attending would be my fishing buddies – a mechanical engineer, an architect, a pilot, a nuclear chemist, a graphic designer and a hotel executive. The menu would include pan-fried walleye we had caught the same day. There’d be a side of American-fried potatoes with onions.

What are some of your favorite ways to relax?

Watching Twins baseball with my family probably tops the list. We have a large screen porch on the front of our 1910 home in Red Wing. The rattan furniture is padded and comfortable. It’s really an idyllic spot to turn on the tube and watch the home town boys play.

I also enjoy watching and coaching youth volleyball . . . and spectating at Division I Women’s volleyball matches (particularly in the Big Ten).

If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?

There would be no single place. I would enjoy dividing time between my native Minnesota and a variety of warmer climes in the winter months. I probably wouldn’t settle in a single southern locale. I like to meet new people.

If you could only read books by one author, who would it be? *I know, this is an inconceivable thought, lol.

Robert B. Parker. I love his books. And he wrote a LOT of them. :)

Share with us a few of your dreams. Also whether they have been fulfilled or are still a work in progress.

I dream for my children to grow into the people God wants them to be. So far . . . so good.

I also dream to be a successful author. Progress toward that dream is still in its early stages. We’ll have to see how it plays out. Lol.

What are some of your guilty pleasures?

I occasionally indulge in Famous Dave’s bread-pudding with butterscotch sauce and whipped cream. Nummm! I’ve been known to smoke a good cigar while fishing.

If you could leave the world with one piece of advice, what would it be?

Don’t waste your time trying to convince someone who refuses to be convinced.

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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.

  • http://cafeofdreams.blogspot.com April

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