Matthew Betley, a former Marine who fought in Fallujah, Iraq, has come out with one of the most realistic war stories from the Iraq War in his new fiction thriller book, Over Watch. Using his own experiences on the battlefield and devastating return home, he weaves together a Tom Clancy-esque thriller war novel that will keep you on the edge of your seat! Read our interview below to learn about Betley’s amazing story in the service of this nation.
Congratulations Matthew on your new book, Over Watch: A Thriller! Can you give us an overview of your book?
Former Marine Force Reconnaissance officer Logan West emerges from a blackout after drinking away the worries of his ruined marriage and PTSD, an all-too-familiar scene for the recovering alcoholic. But he wakes to more than a killer hangover: a professional mercenary has been sent to capture him.
After an embattled showdown, Logan impulsively answers the dead man’s ringing phone, triggering a hasty rescue of Logan’s estranged wife and a global race against the clock to track down an unknown organization searching for an Iraqi flag central to a planned attack in the Middle East—one that will draw the US into a major conflict with Iran.
Meanwhile, Logan is battling his own demons, unable to shake the trauma of the ambush that his Force Recon unit suffered at an insurgent torture compound in Fallujah in 2004.
What was your inspiration in writing the book?
I wanted to create an action thriller hero whose origin was from the Iraq War, since it was an event that changed my life, deploying to Fallujah before the Surge, and shaped who I am today.
I also wanted to create a character who was relatable and far from perfect. And since I’m a recovering alcoholic myself, I chose to write what I knew and give Logan the same problems and issues that I struggled with. One note – I’m sober 7 years this month and never relapsed. Logan, not so much…
What are some takeaways you would like readers to leave with after reading your book?
First and foremost, I just want the reader to enjoy the ride, as that is the main job of thriller writer – to entertain the reader. I wanted to create something that I would want to read – a blockbuster, action-packed roller coaster ride that grips the reader from page one and doesn’t let go until the very end.
Second, the world can be an awful and cruel place, especially when you look at what’s going on around the globe and how ineffective we’ve been as a nation to stop it. I wanted to create an alternate version where our leaders shockingly have the integrity and fortitude to make the hard, right decisions when it’s necessary, not run away and stick their heads in the sand like they all too often do in reality. Overwatch is a work of fiction, regardless of its factual underpinning.
In your bio, you say you deployed to Iraq as a Marine. Thank you for your service! What were you experiences like there?
I was deployed to Camp Fallujah for the majority of the deployment, although I did spend five weeks in Taji living on the Iraqi side of the base. Anbar Province in the late summer and that fall became the most dangerous place in Iraq with the most casualties in the war occurring during that time.
In fact, at one point we were taking weekly incoming rocket and mortar fire, and a civilian contractor was killed when a rocket or mortar (I can’t remember which, at this point) landed outside the reinforced tent in which he worked and blew the wooden door inwards, killing him. That was fortunately the only casualty we took on camp, but every time Marines left the wire, they were getting ambushed or hit with IEDs. It became such a discouraging pressure cooker that a colonel once turned to me in the operations center and said, “We should just take everyone in the camp, get on line, and march right through the city to hunt the bastards.”
We knew the Surge was coming, but it couldn’t come soon enough because Marines were dying or getting wounded while the politicians and senior military leaders back in D.C. took their time planning. It was as stressful as an environment as you can imagine because no matter where you were, once you stepped inside Iraq, you were automatically in danger, either on a base, flying around Iraq in a helicopter – not fun when you’re completely vulnerable and the insurgents are taking pot shots at the bird – or especially in a ground convoy.
I was fortunate and definitely feel like I didn’t do enough – especially as an officer who spent a lot of time as a junior officer training tactically – as I was on one base or another the entire time. Unfortunately, I had friends who died, and I attended too many memorials for young Marines who were killed while I was there. I just hope this origin story, albeit fiction, does justice to the memory of all service men and women who served in Iraq. Their service should never be forgotten, no matter what chaos has befallen Iraq in the last few years.
What books, authors, or conservative-themed books, influenced your political philosophy and outlook on life?
I’ve always been a conservative (I think it’s a function of my family raising me that way), and when I was in my early 20s and during my time in the Marine Corps – full disclosure, I’m now 44 – I listened to Rush Limbaugh. (As I’ve heard him say, that will probably make me a marked man!)
I didn’t always agree with him, but his thought process was always very logical, and he has this amazing self-deprecating sense of humor that people who disagree with him mistake for being serious, even when he’s obviously highlighting some absurdity by being absurd – I respect anyone with a rapacious wit and cutting-edge sarcasm.
For the last 15 years or so, I’ve been a fan of Bill Kristol’s The Weekly Standard and am fortunate to have become acquaintances with Steve Hayes, who did some brilliant reporting on both Benghazi and the disposition of detainees at Guantanamo Bay. I’m also a big fan of Charles Krauthammer, not only for his values but for the adversity he faced and overcame after his diving accident. We should all be so fortunate to be so brave in the face of such daunting circumstances at such a young age.
Learn more about Over Watch: A Thriller and Matthew Betley at the Conservative Book Club!