Tonawanda News — It’s a good thing former convict Gerald T. Balone found his calling as a motivational speaker after being released from prison, because writing books doesn’t seem to be his forte.
Once deemed one of the 64 most dangerous prisoners in New York State after brutally murdering three people during a home invasion in Buffalo in 1973, the inmate-turned-author divulges the truth about his past, his crimes and life after prison in his book, “Rising from the Ashes.”
His personal story is moving. The mob-boss tone in which he writes distracts you from it.
I commend Balone for his bravery, for being committed to spreading his story to others far and wide. He’s a guy you want to root for. I’m sure Balone is a friendly guy who is probably very charismatic in person when he’s giving a talk to a school or church, but his constant need to reaffirm how rough and tough he is in his writing is unnecessary.
He already proved to himself that he could beat the odds and become a hard-working and accomplished member of society. He doesn’t have to try so hard to prove it to the reader.
Show, don’t tell.
After surviving 17 prisons and earning two masters degrees during the process, Balone used education as a way out of the prison system. He is now using it to help other convicts achieve parole and move on with their lives. He also explains in his book that he is committed to helping troubled young adults who he fears may one day end up in a cell block like he did.
I would have liked reading less about the crimes he committed, the people he conned or beat the living daylights out off and more about the people he is helping in the here and now. He mentions a brief story about a talk he gave at a school, and when he got home, a young girl who was in the audience left him a Facebook message telling him how inspirational his talk was. It would have been nice if he could have sprinkled more personal anecdotes like this throughout his book.
It is clear that throughout the book, Balone is grateful to have his freedom back so that he can devote his time to a cause larger than himself. While he is not the most eloquent of writers, he is extremely introspective, sharp-minded and blunt. God has played a crucial role in his life and has helped keep him on the straight and narrow track, and he values the relationship he has created with him, as well as the relationships he has formed with others whose lives he touched over the years.
Despite not being able to get too into the book, I would love to have a conversation with Balone. He is the only convicted felon I would consider having coffee with.• WHAT: "Rising from the Ashes" • BY: Gerald T. Balone • PUBLISHER: No Frills Buffalo Press • GRADE: C+ Jessica Brant is a freelance reporter for the Tonawanda News.