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:

Monday, July 18, 2011

A Case of Hometown Blues

A Case of Hometown Blues is now available on Barnes and and Amazon. BN has a bargain price on it so get it quick. Here is the link:

Still not sure if it is for you? Here are the first couple of paragraphs.

“HEY, MALONE. HOW can we expect to get a Pulitzer in this backwater?”

I wanted to roll my eyes. I had been nominated for the top prize in investigative journalism twice, but never won. My topic for this seminar to a sister newspaper’s staff was finding big stories and working sources. However, Biff and Bob, I think that’s what they said their names were, heckled me just for kicks.

This routine was familiar. I’d been known to do it when I was required to attend a seminar or two in the past. The rest of the afternoon was going to be painful, if I didn’t stomp on these two and fast.

I didn’t do painful. I was an award-winning journalist who covered the crime beat. I was immensely qualified to lead this seminar after receiving national headlines on a story in each of the last two years.

When a Mitch Malone exclusive ran, the advertisers ponyed up for weeks afterwards and circulation rose making my editor and publisher happy in a business that struggled to survive. I was asked to talk to other newspapers in the chain to encourage them to get bigger stories and edge the bottom line into black. I didn’t like it, but didn’t have a choice.

“When was the last time one of your stories made it on the wire?” I challenged the fresh-faced kid a couple of years out of college.

Bob looked at his shoes. Chair legs scraped against the floor as everyone in the room straightened their backs in the small conference room. I looked down the fake wood-grain table that had room for a couple more bodies. Now I had their attention and the sun pulled from behind a cloud and brightened the pale yellow walls.

“What makes a good story great and launches it into the wire services is the attention to detail. Not only creating a picture with your words, but using quotes to convey emotion. You have to work with your police departments, sources and your witness to have conversations with you in order to get at the depth of emotion in a story.” I thought I had them now.

“Yeah, but what terrorists come to Flatville to train for a mission? You can see for miles.” This from another irritant.

“Good and even great stories aren’t found under rocks.” Although I wanted to throw a few stones at the voice, I think was Biff. “Good stories are hard work and require investigation and talking to a lot of people, not just a single source.”

I was back in control again. “I could have just gone with the double homicide story and moved on to the next burglary, but I wouldn’t have been nominated for a Pulitzer for that. You have to develop a sense when something doesn’t seem right. You need to push a little harder.”

“You need to become wanted for murder and go into hiding.”

Also, if you read the book, it would be great if you would post a review or comment on Barnes and Noble or Amazon, or or other places. I need to get more people to read the books. Thanks for all your help! Enjoy Mitch!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

How many emails do you save? I'm blogging about my massive Inbox and how I can't get it under control at Acme Authors.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Hear about my Hometown Blues on Shelley Irwin's morning show.