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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Behind the Scenes: The Trust by Ronald H. Balson + Giveaway (US/Can)

The Trust (Liam and Catherine #4)
Ronald H. Balson
from St. Martin's Press // MacMillan

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.

A Behind-the-Scenes Look at How The Trust Came About

How did The Trust come about? I suppose the foundational question would be, what inspired me to write a murder mystery and set it in Northern Ireland? My three previous books were either set in wartime Poland or in the fiery Middle East. What would inspire me put my characters in Northern Ireland? My very first character, Ben Solomon, told Catherine Lockhart in Once We Were Brothers, that inspirations are ideas that come to all of us from time to time, and to capitalize on them, we must be receptive. We must be good listeners. “Ask any writer,” he said, “they thrive on inspirations, like waiting for the next bus.” Ben believed that inspirations were divine revelations. He said, “The word inspiration comes from Latin and means: to breathe into.” Divine? Perhaps, but I think mine are more mundane.

For Once We Were Brothers, it was my experience traveling around Poland that inspired me to write a story about a Polish family in World War II. For Saving Sophie, it was my connection with people who lived in Israel and served in the Israel Defense Forces that inspired me to write a story involving the Israeli/Palestinian dispute. Fay Waldman, a magnificent woman, a survivor of the Auschwitz death march, told me her story, which inspired me to write Karolina’s Twins, a novel based on her life.

When I finished Karolina’s Twins and was searching for a topic for my next novel, I was out of inspirations. I was toying with the idea of writing a murder mystery, but nothing grabbed me. Where were my inspirations when I needed them? People would ask me what’s next, and I would shake my head. Finally, one of my kids said, “Why don’t you write a story about Liam Taggart going home to Northern Ireland.” Hmm. Not bad.

Like many of us, I was obliquely aware of the civil discord that ravaged Northern Ireland in the seventies and eighties. During that time, I would read newspaper reports about the Catholics and the Protestants, the Loyalists and the Nationalists, the IRA and the UVF, the civil war they called The Troubles, but I can’t say that I had a very good understanding of what it was all about. Nonetheless, being a writer of historical fiction, I thought I could learn about it and draw upon Northern Ireland’s recent history as a backdrop to a murder mystery.

I began to study and research the era. I dove deeply into books and studies about The Troubles. From time to time, in casual conversation, people would ask me, “What are you reading these days?” “What’s on your nightstand?” I would answer, “An eight-hundred-page book on the IRA.”

I have never written a book without actually going to the locale. My wife and I traveled to Northern Ireland, engaged the services of a historian and sought first-hand to examine the places and events I would include in the story. If you truly want to learn, the resources are there and so are the people who are willing to help. The staffs of the Titanic Museum, the Ulster Museum, the Dunluce Castle and other historical sites mentioned in the story were more than willing to provide the fabric and color that cannot be found in the pages of a book.

I decided to write The Trust in the first person to let Liam tell his story. I wanted it to be introspective and delve into intra-family relationships. The Taggarts are a large Irish family with disparate personalities. Indeed, in the mystery, many of them were not above suspicion. I thought it would be interesting to examine the interplay of those personalities when faced with the dilemma of a serial murderer and an unsettled estate. There is no better way to do that than through the eyes of the storyteller.

Since The Trust is my fourth installment in the Liam and Catherine series, I also thought it would be a fine opportunity to get to know Liam. From the previous books, we don’t really know much about his past or his development into the character he is today. In The Trust, there was ample opportunity to insert material about Liam’s childhood, his life as a young adult and his previous relationships. Now Liam returns to Northern Ireland after a sixteen-year estrangement from his family. Not only must he find the villain who threatens the lives of his entire family, but he must face the people and the reasons that prompted him to leave his family and shut the door so many years ago. All in all, The Trust was a joy to write and I thank my kids for giving me the idea.


Books à la Mode is giving away one print copy of The Trust—yay!!

To enter, all you have to do is tell me in the comments below:
Who is someone you would trust with even your deepest darkest secrets?
Please make your comment MEANINGFUL. Comments solely consisting of stock responses or irrelevant fluff like "Thanks for the giveaway!" will not be considered for entry. Ron and I really want to hear from you guys! :)

Don't forget the entry eligibility terms and conditions!
Sponsored wholly by the publisher—a huge thank you to the lovely folks at St. Martin's Press!
Giveaway ends October 3rd at 11.59 PM (your time).
Open to US and Canada residents only. Sorry, everyone else! Please check my sidebar for a list of currently running giveaways that are open worldwide. There are plenty to choose from!
Void where prohibited.
Winners have 48 hours to claim their prize once they are chosen, or else their winnings will be forfeited.
Although I do randomly select winners, I am in no way responsible for prizes, nor for shipping and handling.
As a reminder, you do not have to follow my blog to enter, though it is always very much appreciated ❤
Good luck!