Series 1 Episode 1:
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Following an off-screen trauma, a young prostitute, Sarah Marshall, desperately attempts to contact
David Carn, a middle aged, middle of the road DJ at Radio West. When Carn refuses to see her,
Sarah steals his car and drives to the coast where she overdoses on alcohol and pills.
When Sarah's body is found beside Carn's
Rolls Royce the next morning, Radio West
boss Don Satchley is concerned with
proving that the DJ is unconnected with the
Barrister Erica Bayliss has been invited to
take part in a legal phone-in at Radio West.
When Satchley asks her for legal advice
about the Carn situation, Erica says that she
may be able to help him clear Carn's name.
Erica introduces Satchley to her tenant,
Eddie Shoestring, a luckless private
Eddie's investigations lead him to discover, via the owner of a 1920s theme disco, that Sarah was a
prostitute who worked from a health club in Bristol. Visiting her flat, Eddie finds her 'little black
book' in which the name of the taxi company she used was written. This in turn leads Eddie to a
group of Bristol based businessmen who frequent the health club and warn him not to investigate
any further.
At the club, Eddie gets the name of the company the businessmen are affiliated with. Visiting the
head of the company, and the organiser of the prostitute business, Eddie finds that he is none other
than Sarah's father. It had been he who had been Sarah's last client.
Carn admits to having had an affair with Sarah, and Eddie promises to be discrete. He has, after all,
cleared Carn's name. Carn resigns and Eddie is offered his timeslot, becoming Radio West's new
"Private Ear", a phone-in detective who aims to help listeners with their problems.
"Private Ear" is a good first episode, more akin to "Listen to Me" and the darker half of the second
series than the majority of scripts from "Shoestring's" initial run. The supporting regulars have a lot to
do here. Douglas Camfield's direction shapes the episode, adding touches like the freeze frame of
Sarah. Lots of quirky locations - the bootlegger's disco and the vandalised railway carriage - mix with
subtly memorable minor characters, such as that played by Tony Haygarth and William Russell's
David Carn. Robert Banks Stewart's script manages to achieve the near impossible - familiarising
viewers with the "Shoestring" characters and set up, whilst simultaneously presenting an intriguing
Eddie tells Willis a little bit about his past
Don Satchley, Head of Radio West
Visiting David Carn
Shoestring begins with a solid mystery written by series creator/producer Robert Banks Stewart (from
a story by Richard Harris).

This is exactly as RBS intended Shoestring to be from the off - an updated Philip Marlowe, and as
such is replete with seedy Chandleresque settings (the vandalised railway carriage, etc.) plus a
veritable rogue's gallery of crooks for Eddie to contend with: Tony Hendry, Willis, Len Tilley.

The big difference to the whole Chandler angle, is of course Eddie. He has the integrity of Marlowe
certainly (and the bravery -- Eddie is certainly fearless in his investigations, leading him to many
clobberings!). But his endearing manner, vulnerability, shambling gait and little eccentricities (not to
mention his background) are very different, and very modern. As played by Trevor Eve, I feel Eddie is
very much at home in his job as a private eye - he seems fascinated by people, and whether he likes
them or doesn't, he is at his best reacting to them.

Eddie mentions his breakdown and smashing up of computer equipment briefly to Willis in one scene
in this introductory episode, but throughout the week to come his backstory is never outlined
laboriously - instead details are subtly placed here and there.

One of my favourite elements in this story is David Carn, Radio West DJ on whom suspicion initially
falls. He is, we are told, a former actor, a 50s matinee idol in the vein of Bogarde, Hawkins, Finch
(says Don) - Carn even mentions the title of one of his movies: Warlords of Gaul! Wonderfully
portrayed by William Russell, he is a very rich character whom I'm sure RBS delighted in writing.

The other three regulars are of course also introduced in "PRIVATE EAR". Erica Bayliss the
intelligent, independent lady barrister -- and Eddie's landlady, with whom he enjoys an off-on mutually
convenient relationship! Their dialogue together is a joy, Doran Godwin making the most of her
mordant exasperation with Eddie's bizarre behaviour. Then there is Sonia, young and super-efficient
Radio West secretary played with good-humour by Liz Crowther. And finally Don Satchley, suave,
usually unflappable Radio West MD, keen to reign Eddie in at times but nevertheless genuinely fond of
him and delighted with his work as a station Private Ear - a performance full of charm by Michael
Medwin. In all, a marvellous quartet of regulars who always make Shoestring a joy to watch.
above: Sarah Marshall
below left: David Carn
below right: Sarah overdoses
Eddie becomes a problem for Tony Hendry
The Marshalls identify their daughter
Eddie sketches a nervous Willis
Erica's legal phone-in
Eddie at the bootlegger's disco
Poison phone-ins…threats to a disc jockey. Radio West hires private investigator
Eddie Shoestring, who discovers it may be a longer-running job than he thought…
The actor Ian Fairbairn filmed the role of David Carn's general factotum, John, in a scene near the
beginning of the episode when Carn's agent telephones him to ask about his connection with the
Sarah Marshall case, but this was edited for reasons of time. Here, Mr Fairbairn, who worked many
times with "PRIVATE EAR" director Douglas Camfield, discusses his involvement with Shoestring:

From Douglas Camfield - A Tribute by Howe/Stammers/Walker (Frame Publications, 1990):

"[Douglas Camfield] was a good support man. I'd had a pretty rotten spell, and he was telling me
about Shoestring and Robert Banks Stewart, and he said, "Why don't you write to him - write a
'different' letter, something that'll make him read." And so I wrote this crazy letter, saying something
about me being the "best, unknown has-been!", which actually tickled Banks Stewart's sense of
humour tremendously, and the next thing I knew I was cast for the first episode of Shoestring.
Subsequently, that got cut, so Douglas got me back in a later one - ["The Link-Up"]"
Original BBC1 tx:
2110 - 2205hrs,
watched by 18.7 million

Filming dates:
5 - 21 March 1979
In his book THE PENGUIN TV COMPANION (Penguin Books 2001, 2nd Ed.), Jeff Evans provides this
evidence of Shoestring's lasting legacy:"the name RADIO WEST was bought up by the real-life
independent radio station set up to serve the Bristol area"
(p. 542)
KATE PITTS (see above) adds this: "When Bristol got it's first commercial radio station back in the
early 80's they called it Radio West, it's GWR FM now"

Click here for ROBERT BANKS STEWART's character descriptions
of the four regular characters from his script for "PRIVATE EAR":
Eddie's Sketches
Bristol resident KATE PITTS shared this memory with us:
"I used to love the series when it was first shown and the Radio West
office on Welsh Back, Bristol was part of Telephone House where I
worked at the time. Where Eddie went into Radio West was the entrance
to C block, which contained the canteen and stores amongst other things
- it's now a Bar Med! We often used to watch out the windows as scenes
were filmed, especially on the Lightship which I remember fondly. The
BBC set up the mobile canteen for the actors in the car park beneath the
building and we workers used to watch for Eddie and the other principal
actors in there." (Thanks to Kate, 14 January 2002)