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Jack Gerson

Author and scriptwriter;

Born: July 31, 1928; Died: April 29, 2012.

JACK Gerson, who has died aged 83, was a leading author and TV scriptwriter who was involved in some of the best-known screen dramas of the 1970s. He also created High Living, Scotland's first soap opera.

His television work included The Omega Factor (1979), often regarded as the forerunner of the hit US series The X Files, and The Regiment (1972), which starred Christopher Cazenove and followed the fortunes of a British Army regiment at the turn of the 19th century.

He also wrote a series of popular thrillers, including a version of The Omega Factor, many of which are still in print today.

Jack Gerson was born in Glasgow and grew up in the city's Novar Drive. He was educated at Hillhead Primary and High School, where one of his closest chums was Stanley Baxter. After leaving school, he served for two years in the RAF.

He then went to work with his father Sam, whose family had settled in Scotland after fleeing the Ukraine, in his successful film distribution business. However, writing was in the young man's blood and he often contributed poems and prose to publications such as the Glasgow University Magazine.

He married the artist Margo McGregor and the couple had one child, a daughter Natasha, now an actress and former ballet dancer. Though Jack and Margo maintained a friendship until his death, they divorced after only a few years of marriage. Gerson never re-married.

In 1961, in a bid to find new drama talent, the BBC launched a screen-writing competition. Jack Gerson won with his play Three-Ring Circus, about a man who loses his memory. It was eventually screened with a distinguished cast which included John Breslin and Andrew Cruikshank.

Bouyed by his success, Gerson found himself an agent and began his scriptwriting career in earnest. He cut his teeth writing episodes of Z Cars and went on to work on some of the most popular TV drama series of the time including Sutherland's Law and This Man Craig.

During the 1970s and 1980s Gerson rattled out a dozen very successful thrillers including the aforementioned Back of the Tiger, Death Squad and The Whitehall Sanction.

The Omega Factor, which was made for the network by BBC Scotland, starred James Hazeldine as journalist Tom Crane whose psychic powers become known to a shadowy government department. Gerson was delighted when the paranormal thriller series gained the disapproval of moral campaigner Mary Whitehouse. The writer was particularly proud of a letter he received from her in which she described one particular episode – Powers of Darkness – as "thoroughly evil" because it involved the supernatural and depicted a man burning to death.

Gerson was responsible for creating what was Scotland's first regular television soap opera. High Living, which ran on STV from 1969 until the mid 1970s, centred on the lives of a group of residents in a Glasgow tower block. Later the writer was involved in penning episodes for another STV soap, Garnock Way.

A gentle man with a renowned sense of humour, Jack Gerson was politically active and was involved in the Writers' Guild. His personal interests reflected his work. He enjoyed films, television and books. He did, however, have one more passion – he was a great cat lover.

Gerson, who had been ill for some time, died at Blawarthill Hospital in Glasgow. His funeral will take place at Linn Crematorium in Glasgow next Wednesday.

Jack Gerson is survived by his daughter Natasha, his former wife Margo and his cat, Timmy.

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