Gideon's Way: The Firebug

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I have somehow managed to get to this stage without watching more than the odd episode of Gideon's Way, so when I saw it for sale I had to try it. I have spent the past couple of evenings beginning to watch the episodes in order that they come on the DVDs and was thinking of them as standard ITC offerings, until this one really hit me between the eyes.
I have no idea whether the episodes are in original broadcast order, but there is the slight drawback that this one about a deranged fire setter follows straight on from one about a man traumatised by being in a concentration camp who also has a plan, just for an explosion, with the same motivation of drawing attention to his issue.
You all know how I don't like the same actors appearing in different shows? In this one George Cole is cast as the fire starter. It is an unusual role for him, and he plays it superbly - he really does come across as absolutely deranged and it is even worse that the death of his wife and child in a fire has driven him to this state. The character is all the more chilling because he discusses his arson with his deceased daughter's only surviving doll and almost thinks it is divinely ordained.
I didn't realise that the whole of this series is based on novels written by John Creasey - he is said to have written over 600 novels using a number of different pseudonyms. He often addressed the ongoing effects of the second world war in these novels, and was also very politically active. The concentration camp background of the previous episode is self explanatory but the issue addressed here is the terrible living conditions of people, which often continued up to the 1970s. The background to many of these shows is the drive to improve this situation. The story has been slightly simplified from the novel, and you can find a summary and appreciation here.
This is another show which benefits from repeated viewing: I usually watch an episode at least twice when I write a post, and can testify that this is even more horrifying on the second viewing!
What I don't like about this episode, and which I haven't felt in the others I have seen, is that at points it feels a bit overly moral. I can't think of an example off the top of my head but it feels like the show is making conscious moral points at times. Surely we all know that arson ruins lives? My main criticism is a plot point though, that he gets hold of four sticks of dynamite because they are stored in an unlocked building. I haven't been able to find the legal situation of the time as regards storage, because a lot of legislation was tidied up into the Health and Safety at Work Act (1974), and had he lived our arsonist would have been charged under the Explosive Substances Act (1883), but surely in the 1960s it was illegal to leave dynamite just lying about? I would expect the police at least to comment that it's not been locked up.
I love the shots of the London of the time in this show - it is definitely Avengerland, but it is the one of the earlier series. Of course you can't go wrong visually with a conflagration can you.
So apart from the dynamite left around to be taken, this is a superb show 


  1. Chicago Calling (slightly off-topic, but maybe not …):

    The Gideon's Way TV series was syndicated into the US market in 1966 (under that title; I'm aware that the GB title was Gideon CID).
    1966 was the year that US TV went all in on color; the Gideon was in black-&-white, which probably hurt it in the marketplace.
    I do recall that WGN-TV, Channel 9 here in Chicago, carried it in prime time (Ch9 was a non-network station), and the local critics were mainly kind to it (full disclosure: I never got to see it - but I am curious …).

    That said, here's a possibly amusing sidelight:

    I don't know if you're familiar with an American panel game show called To Tell The Truth.
    This was a sort of knock-off of What's My Line?, from the same producers:
    Three people would appear before the celebrity panel, all identifying themselves by the same name.
    The real one had done something notable, and the panelists had to deduce which one of the three was real.
    On September 16, 1963, John Creasey came to New York City to appear - with two impostors - on To Tell The Truth.
    This episode can be found on YouTube; it's worth looking at, especially when you hear the self-introductions by Creasey and his impostors.
    The American celebrities on the panel - well, there's Sally Ann Howes (daughter of Bobby Howes, she was then big on Broadway), Kitty Carlisle (leading lady in A Night At The Opera), Barry Nelson (American leading man who played "Jimmy Bond" on an TV adaptation of Casino Royale a few years before), and Tom Poston (popular TV comedian). The host is Bud Collyer (who played Superman on radio).
    OK, that's probably more than you need to know, and anyway the game itself only takes about nine minutes (it's the first of three games on that particular episode), but what the heck - I'm a full-service commenter.
    Once again: To Tell The Truth, September 16, 1963, on YouTube.

    Happy Hunting!


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