RICHARD GALLAGHER – Cannon: Murder by Gemini. Cannon #1. Lancer 74783, paperback original; 1st printing, 1971.

   As I imagine everyone reading this already knows, Cannon was a TV series that lasted for five years on CBS, from 1971 to 1976. Playing Frank Cannon was a decidedly rotund movie, radio and TV actor by the name of William Conrad, and it’s my opinion that much of the success the series had was due to his down-to-earth but still somehow debonair personality. It wasn’t his good looks, that’s for sure.

   It’s difficult to describe on screen charisma, and the preceding sentence is the best I’ve been able to do. Richard Gallagher seems to have had the same problem in writing this book, an early novelization of the series. Forced to use only words on the page to flesh out Frank Cannon, author Richard Gallagher makes an occasional reference to his weight, but little more. The Frank Cannon of the book could be any fictional ex-cop turned PI, of which there are hundreds.

   I also found it a bit curious that instead of L.A., Cannon’s usual place of business, almost all of the book takes place in Wyoming, in Grand Teton territory.

   The puzzle presented by the story itself is based on an interesting question. If a murder is committed by one of two identical twins, but an eye witness can’t identify in a lineup which one it is, the police have no choice to let both of them go free, including the one who is actually guilty. What else can they do?

   Cannon is called on to investigate, but he quickly finds himself stumped as well. Most of the book is filled with local lore and three increasingly narrow escapes from attempts on his life.

   It might have made for good television — though I don’t believe this is based on an actual episode — but in terms of a book to read, there’s not a lot of meat in this particular sandwich.