English 10: Writing Portfolio
Catholic Memorial High School
Dear Sgt. McNab,
My name is Bobby Flaherty and I’m from Boston. This year in my British Literature class, we talked about British Contemporary authors that we were inspired by or just liked. When talking about these authors your name was one of my first thoughts. I have not read any other author that has used his experience in special operations and turned it into some of the most detailed espionage thrillers ever written. For that reason, I would like to extend an offer to you to come to my school and talk about your life, and your literary characters.
I find your writing near the top of my espionage thriller list. Along with authors like Robert Ludlum, Tom Clancy, and Vince Flynn, your novels are not for those who are not prepared to read an intelligent espionage novel. Like the other three, you twist and deepen the story with every page, and your characters have to think rather than using the “kiss, kiss, bang, bang” technique of James Bond.
Your life has inspired me. I have already decided that the best place to learn is the military. Through books like Bravo Two Zero, and Immediate Action, you explain different elements of what hell you had to go through. “Another time their toilets were blocked with their shit. They marched me down there and made me pull it out with my hands. Afterwards they made me lick my fingers clean.” Your experience is much wider than the average soldier, and at the same time you show the reader the professionalism in the military. The main character in your fiction series, Nick Stone, has often been described as an autobiography of you. Your latest novel, Aggressor, has Stone trying to live a carefree life in Australia. Nick does everything he can to live a normal life, and take care of his own problems. Due to his skill in the field, he has been called back even when his last mission was said to be his final mission for the United Kingdom. While I most likely will not be able to buy your novel for some time, I am sure it is like your life. Similiar to Nick you were free from duty to the United Kingdom. You had just got out of the SAS, but you rejoined. Soon thereafter, you were out again into the free life. Now you have been dragged into the web again when you trained MI-6 agents in the art of guerilla warfare.
While researching more information on you, I read that you are writing a short story that is meant to get teens to read. I truly think that it is great that you have decided to contribute to the education of today’s youth. One of your quotes read: "All we are trying to do is get people to be able to say, 'I have read my first book.'" This shows that the authors recognize that children have problems and this has caused a decline in reading. I am not familiar with the other authors that are contributing, but each author adds something else to the collection that can ignite the fire of reading. Yours is the precision in the lead character’s decision making, and how to get over an obstacle in real life.
It must be hard to have to live a life of secrecy and wanting to be normal but having to deal with the press. You continue to write for the press but it seems like it is a need to give the commoner a view from somone expert who has never fired a rifle in their defense but sits back and complains about how those who have complete the job. I am sure that you are still looking for a bigger challenge in life so why don’t you try coming to Massachusetts, and helping my fellow students understand what it is like to fight on the frontlines and have people complain about your every move. There is no greater challenge than facing the ignorant.
The song “The Fields of Athenry” is a popular folksong from Ireland written before the turn on the 20th Century. Devlin in Dublin published the most popular form of the Ballad in 1888. The song was most likely written primarily in the County Galway in or around Athenry. “The Fields of Athenry” takes a critical look at the history and the philosophy of Ireland during the Potato Famine.
During the mid-1800’s a Potato Famine struck Ireland. The small towns that relied on the potatoes, as not only a source of food but as income too, suffered greatly from this tragic time. In the area surrounding Athenry the population dropped more than 30% because of the famine. Lord Trevalyn (Travelian), a wealthy man responsible for distributing relief, bought corn from the United States, and had it shipped to him. Due to Trevalyn’s policies the small Irish families were forced to either steal or die. Trevalyn’s corn was their very survival. Anyone caught stealing, however, would be gaoled.
This song retells the story of a young Irish couple struggling to survive the Potato Famine. The husband, Danny, is caught stealing corn from Travelian . “For you stole Travelian's corn, / That your babes might see the Dawn” When the “prison ship” arrives to take Danny away to Australia. Danny is allowed to say one last thing to his wife. He tells her that no matter what she must raise the kids on her own. She must never give in to the famine or the English crown. “I rebelled, they ran me down, now you must raise our children without me.” The author most likely overheard a conversation between the family and the police, and it bothered him so much that he wrote down the song as an inspiration not only for himself but also for the family.
”The Fields of Athenry” is still a very popular song today. Peter St. johns rewrote the song in 1979, and that version remains the most popular of the many versions of the song. Other bands, such as the Boston-based “Dropkick Murphy’s” play a rock rendition of the song. On amore personal note, when my grandfather became gravely ill and eventually died, while my father was still a teenager, a family friend, Norman Payne of Athenry, an independent music artist, helped my family out. One of his mot popular songs is “The Fields of Athenry”. One Irish woman, Anne Marie Archbold, immediately started to sing the song when it was mentioned that my family came from Athenry. A student a Catholic Memorial, Michael Murray, when asked if he knew the song said, “Of course, I listen to it all the time when I’m with my father.”
“The Fields of Athenry” remains a popular song even after one hundred years. The lyrics show the corruption and power of the English crown and it’s civil servants and compares it to the effects the famine had on the everyday farmer. These farmers would have to risk ever seeing their families again or letting everyone in their family die. The song also shows that the Crown was greatly impassionate for they caused the unnecessary deaths of somewhere between 500,000 to 1,000, 000 Irish people.
“Whilst she is lonely in the Fields of Athenry”
On August 25, 1988 the unthinkable happened. Saddam Hussein used Weapons of Mass Destruction or specifically a nerve agent in the chemical weapons group on the Kurdish population living in Birjinni. It is not known exactly why Saddam had used weapons of mass destruction on the Kurds. It could have been a test of the weapon for later use against Americans or other westerners. Or it could have happened because Saddam feared that the Kurds could up rise, and posed a great danger to his dictatorship. This led him to use these weapons on the unarmed women, men, and children in Northern Iraq. Therefore, I believe that Saddam Hussein used the sarin gas on the Kurdish population to reaffirm his power.
Saddam Hussein, the president of Iraq at that time, ordered the use of chemical weapons on the Kurdish population in Northern Iraq. He blamed the Kurds for sheltering guerillas armed by the Iranians who planned on bringing Saddam’s power down. This was the largest chemical weapons attack on a civilian population in the 20th century. It is believed that Saddam had used mustard gas, and several nerve agents: sarin, tabun, and VX. These weapons caused the deaths of many innocent civilians. Even with these accusations, Saddam and his family still believe that it was justified as seen when Saddam’s cousin called the War Crimes Court “children of adultery.” Basically calling the court and these accusations a sham.
The nerve agents and other types of chemical weapons used have various devastating effects that should not be suffered by anyone. Sarin and VX cause the nerve impulses to continually transmit causing the lose of bodily functions. This leads to vomiting, defecation, and urination. Mustard gas causes the skin to severely blister, and most likely internal organs. Tabun basically has the same effects as Sarin and VX but less lethal. By far, VX is the most deadly of the weapons used by Saddam and quite possibly the most lethal ever created.
In a major case of mass murder there is always a culprit. From the person, who followed out the orders to those who had helped plan these attacks. These attacks could have also been a part of a conspiracy that Iran set up to cause the world to turn their eyes on Iraq. It is my belief that the conspiracy would most likely be crossed off. The Commander of Iraqi forces in Iraq Kurdistan is one of these culprits that should be looked at seriously.
In popular culture, VX and other nerve gasses have made appearances in the spy fiction/thriller genre. One of the most notable in British culture would be on the show “Spooks” or “MI-5” in the United States. In the episode, VX was features when the team was in a simulated attack. On the hit show 24, a form of VX is being used by the terrorists to coerce the United States to follow their demands. In Robert Ludlum’s Cover-One series Nerve Gas has been used in a series of bio and chemical weapon attacks on the United States.
Saddam Hussein clearly used weapons of mass destruction against the Kurdish population in northern Iraq to further his power in the Middle East. There is enough evidence to indicate that Saddam was fearing a revolt because of his excuse: the cities were sheltering guerillas plotting to end Saddam’s reign of terror.
Throughout the different periods of time language has been used to bring people, strung out across the globe together. No other language has out beat English to bring together more people together through the magic of literature. From the Harry Potter series to Frederick Forsyth’s spy thrillers to William Shakespeare tragic plays, the English language has dominated in expressing the ideas of many people. For example, the word “traitor” comes from the Middle English word treiture, and has been used in many works including the Scottish Play. In my opinion, the English language specifically the word traitor has played an instrumental role in the way the world is today.
Over the years the definition of “traitor” has remained similar to the original and the only differences in the definition is the wording. This can be seen by looking at the definitions provided by various dictionaries and the words etymology. The word “traitor” comes from the Latin word “Traditor” and it means “to betray” This is very similar to today’s definition. The American Heritage Dictionary defines the word as “One who betrays one’s country, a cause, or a trust, especially one who commits treason.” The Merriam-Webster Dictionary similarly defines the word as “one who betrays another’s trust or is false to an obligation or duty”. Lastly, WordNet dictionary supplies us with two definitions: “someone who betrays his country by committing treason” and a person who says one thing but does another”. The first of these definitions is more in line with the traditional, and the second most likely came from ‘street talk’.
The definitive source for all definitions, the Oxford English Dictionary, provides us with two definitions. The first of these definitions is “one who betrays any person that trusts him, or any duty entrusted to him; a betrayer”. This was seen as early as 1225 in print. The other definition is “one who is false to his allegiance to his sovereign”. This definition was used to describe the river gate of the Tower of London. This gate was often referred to as Traitor’s Gate because of the criminals and their crimes who faced their ultimate execution there.
I have asked different people about the word “traitor”, and while negative thoughts come into mind when this word is said it brings us together in protecting each other. Robert Creaven’s, a sophomore at Catholic Memorial, first thought, when he heard the word was Jane Fonda. He then went on to say, “ The ‘traitor’, Jane Fonda, went over to Vietnam, and had many of our valiant soldiers killed by NVA bastards.” This expresses Robert’s hate for Jane Fonda and people who are “traitors”, but many including the man who spit on Jane Fonda last year share this opinion. On the other side, best-selling author Steve Alten first thought of “someone who betrays their country” He also gave the following sentence: “Whistleblowers are heroes, ‘traitors’ are the criminals who did the act of betrayal,” These opinions show that there is a difference between betraying the soldiers who protect us, in the manner of Jane Fonda, and protecting the country by leaking information and stopping criminal action
The word “traitor” has appeared in the works of famous authors such as William Shakespeare, John Milton and George Byron. William Shakespeare first used the word “traitor” in his early play “The Two Gentlemen of Verona”. The verse reads, “Unless I prove false ‘traitor’ to myself”. The character, Julia, is talking about how she must be false to her ideals if she is to truly serve her master. In John Miton’s ‘Paradise Lost’, Milton writes “Art thou that ‘Traitor’-Angel, art thou he, /who first broke Peace in heaven and faith.” This refers to Lucifer and how he betrayed God, and caused great turmoil because of it.” George Byron’s piece ‘Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage’ contains the line, “A ‘traitor’ only fell beneath the feud.” This line refers to the idea that when one betrays his friends, ideals, or those that put faith in him he will be crushed in the chaos that will ensue.
In other pieces of fiction, such as the spy thriller genre, the word traitor appears quite often. It is common for the main character to be declared a “traitor,” deal with “traitors”, and or hunting down a “traitor”. This is true in Frederick Forsyth’s “The Day of the Jackal”. The novel deals with a group of separatists, who have been declared “traitors”, who hire a professional assassin to take out the president of France. In Andy McNab’s “Crisis Four” he must hunt down his ex-girlfriend who was declared a “traitor” by the United Kingdom. It is pretty evident that this word still has an effect on the works of today, and it was not just used in the past. One whole book could deal with this word, and this just expresses the beauty of the English language.
Recently, in an article published on May 22nd of this year, the word “traitor” was used by Time Magazine (United Kingdom version) to describe the activities of Polish bishops, priests, and other ordained minister that “acted as informers and agents for the Polish communist secret services.” According to the Archbishop of Cracow these spies infiltrated not only the Polish Church but also the Vatican too. These priests have been branded as “traitors” because their actions directly went against the orders of the late Pope who threatened the communist government several times. To not only go against the orders of the Pope, but also Church doctrine is a grave crime, and these men will be scarred with the word “traitor” because of their outrageous actions.
It is my belief that the English language should not only be the official language of the United States but I believe it should be the official language of the UN. The multitude of words in the English language can portray countless images. No other language can create the beautiful verses that the English language has created. This is exactly why the language has thrived throughout the years. Not only does the English language provide us with the magnificent works of art, but it also has helped us unite. English is truly a combination of many different languages. No one language can truly link the world but English is the first since ancient Greek to display the fine art of literature.
Alten, Steve “Personal Interview”
Bob Flaherty, April 27, 2006
Creaven, Robert “Personal Interview”
Bob Flaherty, April 24, 2006
Byron, George “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage”
Oxford University Press, 2000
Merriam-Webster Inc. 2004
Miller, George A. “WordNet 2.0”
Princeton University, 2001
Milton, John “Paradise Lost”
Barnes and Noble Books, 2005
Owen, Richard “Polish Inquisition For Traitor Priests Casts A Pall Over Papal Visit”
Time Magazine (UK), 05/22/06
Pickett, Joseph “The American Heritage Dictionary”
Random House, 2001
Shakespeare, William “Two Gentlemen of Verona”
Simon and Schuster Publishing Group, 1999
Simpson, John “Oxford English Dictionary”
Oxford University Press, 1971
Inside the Traveler’s Mind
“Could you do me a favor?”