Guest Post ~ The Trust by Ronald Balson

Is That Character a Real Person?

I am frequently asked if my principal characters are based on actual people, people I know.  The question makes sense because my books are historical fiction and filled with actual events and personalities.   The settings are authentic.  So, doesn’t it stand to reason that the principals are based on actual people as well?  Is Catherine Lockhart based upon a lawyer I know? Was Ben Solomon (Once We Were Brothers) based on a member of my family?  (He wasn’t).  Did my family get caught up in the Holocaust? (It did not).

            Naturally, I am flattered when I get those questions.  It means that I have created characters that are believable.  Since Author’s Rule #1 dictates that a writer should stay within his comfort zone and write what he knows, isn’t it fair to ask where the ideas for characters come from?  Why wouldn’t there be real models for each of my principals?

            Maybe the best answer is that my characters are composites. They are amalgams.  In my forty-five years of litigation practice I have known many strong women lawyers. It is easy for me to piece together a Catherine Lockhart.  I have also known many lawyers who work for very large law firms (I did myself for many years).  I know the pressures and protocols, and the inner firm politics.  I have appeared before hundreds of judges who have all sorts of dispositions.  Was cantankerous Judge Peterson (Karolina’s Twins) based upon a real judge?  (No, but I have appeared before many like him).

            I tend to stay within my experiences when forming characters or setting a story.  For example, I wrote about a sports betting scandal in Saving Sophie.  That was in my comfort zone.  I represented a college basketball player in the largest point shaving trial in recent history.  In my newest novel, The Trust, Liam Taggart is tasked with saving his family from a serial killer and managing his deceased uncle’s estate.  He reluctantly accepts an appointment as trustee of his uncle’s estate only to find that some members of his large Irish family resent the appointment and do not intend to comply with the terms.  They immediately contest the will, the trust and Liam’s appointment in a vicious court case.  Again, that falls within my comfort zone.  Believe me, there’s nothing more combative than a contested estate.

            The only exception to the rule is Lena Scheinman in Karolina’s Twins.  Lena is based upon Fay Scharf Waldman, a heroic woman who survived the Auschwitz death march.  I met Fay during my Once We Were Brothers book tour.  She called me to tell me that she had read my book and thought it to be very authentic.  “I thought I was reading about my own family,” she said.  We managed to get together one afternoon and she told me her story.  When she finally told me about the twins, I knew I had to write the story.  Rather than a biography, I chose to write it as historical fiction, but inspired by and based upon Fay’s life. 

            Even though all but one of my principal characters is fictional, the settings and historical backdrops are factual.  To that end, I always research the topics deeply.  When an author writes historical fiction, he cannot play fast and loose with the facts.  Accuracy is paramount.  I also travel to the locations of each story, not just to get a feel for the landscape, but to gather information.  People and their stories are great resources. 

Series: Liam Taggart and Catherine Lockhart (Book 4)
Publisher: St. Martin's Press (September 19, 2017)
Genre: Mystery
ISBN-10: 1250127440
ISBN-13: 978-1250127440
Buy: Amazon, Kindle, IndieBound, The Book Depository


The newest novel from Ronald H. Balson, the international bestselling author of Once We Were Brothers, finds private investigator Liam Taggart returning to his childhood home for an uncle's funeral, only to discover his death might not have been natural.

When his uncle dies, Liam Taggart reluctantly returns to his childhood home in Northern Ireland for the funeral―a home he left years ago after a bitter confrontation with his family, never to look back. But when he arrives, Liam learns that not only was his uncle shot to death, but that he’d anticipated his own murder: In an astonishing last will and testament, Uncle Fergus has left his entire estate to a secret trust, directing that no distributions be made to any person until the killer is found. Did Fergus know, but refuse to name, his killer? Was this a crime of revenge, a vendetta leftover from Northern Ireland’s bloody sectarian war? After all, the Taggarts were deeply involved in the IRA. Or is it possible that the killer is a family member seeking Fergus’s estate? Otherwise, why postpone distributions to the heirs? Most menacingly, does the killer now have his sights on other family members?

As his investigation draws Liam farther and farther into the past he has abandoned, he realizes he is forced to reopen doors long ago shut and locked. Now, accepting the appointment as sole trustee of the Fergus Taggart Trust, Liam realizes he has stepped into the center of a firestorm.

RONALD H. BALSON is a Chicago trial attorney, an educator, and writer. His practice has taken him to several international venues including Poland, which served as the inspiration for his first best selling novel, Once We Were Brothers. A love of history, the Middle East, and traveling inspired his second novel, Saving Sophie. He returns to Poland for his Karolina's Twins, which was released in September 2016.

Balson was a finalist for the Harper Lee Award for Legal Fiction in 2014 and a finalist for the Premio Bancarella Italian Literature Award in 2014. He was an honoree at the Chicago Public Library Foundation’s Carl Sandburg Literary Award dinner.

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