Saturday, November 2, 2013

Ronald H. Balson

Once We Were Brothers is Ronald H. Balson’s first novel. When he’s not writing books, Balson is a trial attorney in Chicago, where he has practiced for the last 40 years. Additionally, he taught business law at the University of Chicago for twenty-five of those years.  Once We Were Brothers was initially self-published, but after selling 100,000 copies, the novel was acquired by St. Martin’s Press, which reissued the book last month.

Recently I asked Balson about what he was reading. His reply:
I just finished an extraordinary non-fiction account of the history of Jerusalem. Simon Sebag Montefiore’s national bestseller, Jerusalem, the Biography, has everything you’d ever want to know about Jerusalem, its people, its religions, its culture and its influence upon the rest of the world. Beautifully written, not the least bit dry, Jerusalem is chock full of interesting anecdotes about the region’s founders, builders, movers and shakers.

Jerusalem is 650 annotated pages, so it might take you a while. But it’s well worth it, even if you can’t remember one Caliph from another. Montefiore conveys a three thousand year timeline in such a captivating fashion that you come away with an appreciation for the land, the competing philosophies and the people who struggle to call it their home. My second novel, the sequel to Once We Were Brothers, concerns a terrorist plot and takes place in Israel. Jerusalem was a valuable resource for me.

WARNING! As a troubling sidelight, I find myself repeating quotes from Jerusalem in ordinary conversation. It can make you seem a little strange. For example, when discussing the U.S. dilemma with Syria the other night at a dinner party, I mentioned that Herod Agrippa said, “War, if it once begun, is not easily laid down.” My friends responded, “Really, Ron? Herod Agrippa?” Well, it made sense to me. There’s a lot of meat and potatoes in Montefiore’s book.

Once We Were Brothers is a novel of a family’s struggle through the Nazi occupation of a small town in Poland so I’m drawn to World War II books. I recently finished Sarah’s Key, Tatiana de Rosnay’s sensitive, intimate account of the investigation of Vel d’Hiv, the Nazi round-up of Paris Jews in 1942, also published by St. Martin’s Press. I admire deRosnay’s skill in deftly building Julia’s emotional obsession, and the changes it wrought upon her life.
Visit the official Once We Were Brothers website and Ronald H. Balson's Facebook page. 

My Book, The Movie: Once We Were Brothers.

The Page 69 Test: Once We Were Brothers.

--Marshal Zeringue