Sunday, July 31, 2011

Mitch Malone Mondays - Keith Bettinger

Mitch Malone here back from a vacation and pleased to see my latest adventure is now available. Check it out. Enough of that though, today's guest is a man who knows how to tell a story. Keith Bettinger is a retired cop from New York or maybe I should say Brooklyn specifically. Keith is one guy I wouldn't want to meet in a dark alley. Thanks for stopping by and letting a reporter take a few jabs at you. First, how did a tough cop become a writer?

Hi Mitch, Wendy must of gave you some misinformation. I’m not from Brooklyn, I just sound like I am. I’m from Long Island, pronounced by the natives as “Lawn Giland”. I lived in the bucolic suburbs filled with dandelions and ragweed. I really made my way into writing by accident. I did something that ‘professional writers’ tell you you can’t do – I did a term paper on dreams and post shooting trauma, and a well-respected trainer and writer, Massad Ayoob, of the Lethal Force Institute in New Hampshire, passed it along to the editor of Police Marksman magazine and they sent me a contract to sign.

While you were working, did you ever have a favorite reporter? (I know you weren't working with me and that might have made a difference.) Did you feed them information?

On Long Island there is only one daily newspaper, NEWSDAY. As it goes Newsday is the sworn enemy of police. However, they did have one excellent crime reporter, Jim McDonald. He wrote the truth about the police. If you did a good job, Jim was there to tell the residents of Long Island about your deeds. If a cop did something wrong, Jim reported it without sensationalizing it. It’s a shame he has passed away.

The other great reporter was Ed Lowe. He was more a storyteller about life on Long Island. His father was the Chief of Police in the village of Amityville, NY. The first time I met Ed at a book signing of his I told him he was the only reason I let Newsday in my house. He laughed and told me when he went to work for Newsday he asked his father could he bring the paper home. His father told him, “Only if you pay for it. I won’t.”

Ed wrote many moving tributes about a lot of the people I worked with. He could make you laugh and he could make you cry with his printed word. It was a sad day when Ed Lowe passed away a few months ago.

Your new book, END OF WATCH, is about a cop who faces tragedy and how he lives with it. This is a fictional story but is based on a real guy? How did putting this story together come to be?

END OF WATCH took about fifteen years to complete. It’s not based on anyone. It comes from being a peer support counselor during police week for thirteen years as well as at the National Law Enforcement Memorial dedication in Washington, DC. I saw many people trying to understand why they lost their loved one. I wanted to write a book that would be short enough to read in a couple hours, and yet make them understand that they are not alone in their grief. It was a struggle to get the book completed. Now I hope it helps readers work their way through their grief.

END OF WATCH is a more serious read isn't it? Another of your books is just laugh out loud funny and is about two cops called Fighting Crime With "Some" Day and Lenny. You are a seriously funny guy and I have that on the best authority. Is it harder to write humor?

I would say that END OF WATCH is somewhere between a romance novel and a self help book. Romance because there is love of family and the job, and self help because grief issues are addressed.

Fighting Crime with “Some” Day and Lenny started as a joke with a story about 2 bumbling NYPD detectives in the quiet borough of Staten Island. Staten Island is the best kept secret of New York City, right across from Brooklyn. It has suburbs just like Long Island has. In all the old black and white movies, cops were banished to Staten Island when they did something wrong.

There is a competition between the cops that patrol Long Island and the New York City Police Department. Nothing terrible. Just who has the hardest job and who makes the most money. I decided to play off this competitive spirit and put an overachiever with a bungling partner and put them in a location where cobwebs grow on criminals. Many of the scenarios are exaggerations of actual events.

The hardest part of writing humor is what is funny to me might not be funny to the reader. You can’t insult the reader. One of the most difficult parts about writing comedy about Staten Island came after September 11, 2001. I started writing my book a few years before that infamous date. All the debris was taken to the Arthur Kill landfill on Staten Island. There as it was sifted through by police officers looking for remains to return to loved ones. There was no humor in that location. I had to make up a different location for some ‘funny’ things to happen. Also, some police officers died on Staten Island during the writing of the book. Caution had to be used when writing comedic scenarios. That is why I wrote and included the last chapter in the book.

Tell us one of the funniest things that happened to you?

Although it didn’t happen to me I was there to witness it. It was a summer evening and a call went out for a possible burglary in progress. The owners of the house were on vacation and neighbors thought someone broke into the house. We responded and all the young cops were leaping the six foot tall fence. Us old guys opened the gate and walked into the back yard.

While looking in the back window of the house for burglars, one young officer took a step back and everyone heard a loud splash. We looked and there sticking out of the in ground pool was the officer’s hand holding his portable radio above the water. If there had been burglars in the house they would have escaped because there wasn’t a cop at the scene that wasn’t rolling on the ground laughing. Well, there was at least one cop that wasn’t laughing. Fortunately for me, I was laughing.

Keith it has been a pleasure and I wish you had been a cop on the beat. How can people get their hands on END OF WATCH?

I self-published END OF WATCH so it would finally be in the hands of readers. I did the cover art. (The photo, which I took at the National Law Enforcement Memorial, plays a part in the story.) Eventually I hope to pick up a publisher and turn the book over to the publisher for distribution. The book is available through me for $10 and $3 first class US Mail, or $5 for priority mail.

Thanks Keith. Pick up a copy of END OF WATCH. Contact Keith through his email:


  1. Welcome Keith, Wendy here. Glad to see I got something wrong and Mitch isn't letting me forget it! All about fact checking! Thanks for being a guest and running the Mitch gauntlet!

  2. My wife and I lived in the precinct in Suffolk County where Keith worked. We have many mutual acquaintances. Coincidentally, Kathy Ryan also worked as a cop in the same place. It covered the township of Huntington. We exchanged war stories about cases she and I knew about, even some where I represented the defendant. During my years in the NYPD I had personal acquaintance with at least 8 cops who were killed in the line of duty and many more who I knew about. Meeeting those two ex-SCPD officers just one extra benefit of attending the conference. John Bray

  3. Interesting blog! Because I'm new to the Police Safety Writers Association, it's a good way to get to know the members.

  4. Keith's new book, "End of Watch" is a great read for anyone wanting to sense the heart and soul of police officers. Cops like firefighters have the ability to go from a normal routine to confronting death in the blink of an eye. It is a special calling and Keith Bettinger pours it out from his heart to the pages of his book.

  5. If Keith's book is anywhere near as interesting as Keith himself, I can't wait to read it.

    Holli Castillo
    Gumbo Justice
    Jambalaya Justice

  6. Keith is a very sensitive man and he writes with that same sensitivity. I don't mid saying that I'm an old man, been in law enforcement all my life. I have seen crap like most cops have then went out and drank a beer and joked about it. I read End of Watch and Keiths scene at the wall brought tears to my eyes. Beautiful!

  7. Holli put it perfectly. And I'd love to read "Fighting Crime". Sounds a little bit like Carl Haiisen!