A few years after my father left, my mom had a kind of breakdown. She didn't go wild, she didn't freak out, she just grew very sad and felt like she needed family. So we went upstate to live with our grandmother on the coast for a while. A pretty little town with an endless beach and vast stretches of sand dunes, here I had my first kiss, and my first love. He moved away the summer after, which was when I met Taylor. The bright-eyed boy. He was wild, he was arrogant, he didn't give a flying fuck for anything, he was glamorous and dangerous and cute as all hell. He had the sort of smile that made people do bad, bad things. I was crazy about him.

Both my mother and brother were wary of Taylor, but my grandmother was the most vocal. "He drives too fast. He's too spoilt. He'll get you into trouble. He hangs around with the wrong crowd. He's rude. He's disruptive. You're a lovely girl, you could do much better....."
On and on. I love my grandmother, so I'd smile and reassure her, while thinking - but hey, Lark and I drive too fast, trouble looks like fun, and love is not a competition to see how well you can do.

Then I'd slip out, to see the bright-eyed boy. We'd tear up the sand in his dune buggy, or play pirates in his father's boat with his crowd, mostly bored rich kids with nothing to do. We staged food fights in diners. We trashed two cars. We broke into the old spook house and stayed overnight. I was seventeen. Mom and Grandma sat up all night when I didn't come home. The patrol car found us, under a blanket. I cried, it was so embarrassing.

Mom, the hippie, didn't want to ground me, so Grandma took things into her own hands. She called Taylor and asked him to come over. He came. She sat him down at the table and asked him straight out if he wanted to mess with the law, or mess with her granddaughter. Taylor, not used to straight talking, was scared into being quietly apologetic. He was around six feet two, and when Grandma, around five feet in her funny old slippers, threatened to tan his hide for him, I thought he'd laugh. But he was respectful, called her ma'am, and as he said goodbye to me on the porch he whispered in my ear: "She sure is one cool lady. She shoulda been a general. She'd have given em hell."

And after that, we called her The General.

An episode of The Prisoner. This episode stars the same Number Two (Colin Gordon) as A, B & C, and there is some debate as to which is supposed to come first -- see episode orderings for `The Prisoner'.

In this episode, a satire on the education system, The Village is dominated by an experimental new Speedlearn project masterminded by The Professor and controlled by an unseen General -- a method of subliminal teaching that could quite easily be perverted towards more unsavoury ends in the wrong hands. Number Six finally discovers the true nature of The General and defeats The Village's plans.

A science-fiction series consisting of five books, by David Drake and S. M. Stirling, published by Baen Books. The series includes:

The story takes place on the world of Bellevue, which has lost contact with the rest of human space after a devastating interstellar war, nearly destroying civilization.

A thousand years later, mankind has pulled itself up to a technology level similar to 18th-century Earth, with cannons, muskets, and cavalry charges. Bellevue is divided among several different nations - the barbaric MilGov Squadron and Brigade, the byzantine Civil Government, and the Colony, descended from the original Islamic settlers of Bellevue.

An ancient battle computer finds and enlists the aid of Raj Whitehall, a minor noble in the Civil Government. With the help of Center, Whitehall trains, organizes, and leads into battle the forces of the Civil Government to reunite Bellevue and save mankind from descending back into the Stone Age.

As usual for Drake and Stirling, the series features lots of blood, carnage and Napoleonic-era tactics, but little else. Nice, light reading similar to the Horseclans series and Pournelle and Stirling's Janissaries.

When the Irish Republican Army executed Martin Cahill in August, 1994, nobody was happier than the Dublin police. Known in Ireland as "The General", Martin Cahill was an old style, working-class criminal whose derring-do humiliated authorities and provided plenty of fodder for Irish newspapers looking for comic relief in the dark days of Irish politics.

From dancing around the courthouse in a pair of Mickey Mouse boxer shorts to pulling off heists of priceless art, Cahill was a mysterious figure who rose from petty thief to the top of Dublin's criminal dungheap.

Adding to Cahill's mystique was the fact that few people - save for his two mistresses, their four children and his crime buddies - ever knew what he actually looked like because he always managed to hide his face from the media.

Cahill's lifetime haul from bank robberies, art gallery thefts, and home burglaries was estimated at nearly 60 million irish pounds, and while he was no Robin Hood, preferring to steal from the rich and give to himself, he was certainly an interesting character whose life, crimes and loves formed the basis of Director John Boorman's (Deliverance, Excalibur, Beyond Rangoon, Hope and Glory, Point Blank) 1998 film The General.

Shot entirely in black and white, The General tells the true to life story of Cahill, a small time crook who eventually became Dublin's Godfather of Crime. The film looks at Cahill's crime overlordship with a humourous slant, casting him as an anti-authoritarian hero of the marginalised and the oppressed.

In one scene, he appears as a David against the Goliath of urban progress when he makes a last stand at his low-income housing project even though it is literally being torn down around him.

But the film does not sugar coat his penchant for brutality and violence. In another scene, we see how Cahill treats suspected traitors within his crime organisation when he nails the crook's hand to a snooker table in a mock crucifixion.

In yet another scene he tries to assasinate a forensic anthropologist, and in another, he threatens a witness who is slated to testify against him.

His prediliction towards violence indicates that he had little remorse for his victims and no one knows that better than John Boorman, himself one of Cahill's burglary victims.

That episode is brought to life in the film when Cahill, played by actor Brendan Gleeson, steals a Gold Record during a home burglary and breaks it in half when he realizes it isn't gold.

That particular Gold Record was for Duelling Banjos, the hit score from Deliverance, one of Boorman's earlier - and most successful - films.

Not everyone loves The General. According to The Republican News, the voice of the IRA, Boorman's characterisation of Martin Cahill is a "major disappointment". Among other criticisms, the News cites Boorman's reference to the Concerned Parents Against Drugs movement as insulting to Cahill's victims. In one hilarious scene, Cahill counters the success of the grass roots CPAD by establishing a parallel group called "Concerned Criminals."

"Cahill was no ...hero.... He was the ultimate in authoritarianism and individualism, and was an oppressor to people of his own class who he used, abused and brutalised in order to fulfill his own selfish ambitions. Cahill had no altruistic traits. His motive was pure, unadulterated greed.

He despised the collective will of the people and community empowerment and demonstrated this through his actions against the Concerned Parents movement. Faced with the people power of the CPAD Dublin's drug dealers could no longer threaten or intimidate with impunity. Martin Cahill's response was to establish the `Concerned Criminals' group. Gangsters, under Cahill's direction, targeted the homes of anti-drugs activists and threatened people who involved themselves in marches and pickets. Masked gunmen shot an anti-drugs activist, Joey Flynn, in both legs.

It's widely believed among the Dubliners that I hang around with that the real reason Cahill was killed by the IRA was because he interfered in the Irish drug trade. It's also suggested that Boorman wisely avoided mentioning that fact in the film because he intends to keep working in Ireland.

While we may never know the real reason why Cahill was murdered, we can make up our own minds about the man who became Ireland's most controversial criminal by watching the film, or by reading the book The General by Paul Williams.

Sources:

  • The General, directed by John Boorman
  • http://www.imdb.com/
  • http://www.irlnet.com/aprn/archive/1998/May28/28film.html
  • The General by Paul Williams

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