Laugh Date: Saturday, April 29, 2017

What's Inside

RAH Humor Review:
The M*A*S*H Novels

by Dave Bealer

This review first appeared in the November 1994 issue of Random Access Humor.

Copyright © 1994 Dave Bealer, All Rights Reserved.

In 1968 the United States seemed to be flipping it's collective lid. It was a year of riots and assassinations at home, meanwhile young Americans were laying down their lives in the jungles of Southeast Asia. In the midst of this insanity came an appropriately insane novel, one that recalled the exploits of some other young Americans, from the previous generation, who served in another Asian land war that wasn't officially a war.

M*A*S*H, by Richard Hooker, recounts the exploits of the surgeons, nurses, and support staff of a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (MASH) during the Korean War. The novel was well received, being compared by reviewers to that classic novel of military insanity, Catch-22. In fact M*A*S*H would go on to surpass Catch-22 in commercial success, inspiring a hit movie, and even bigger hit television series.

The motion picture M*A*S*H was released in 1970, and starred Donald Sutherland, Elliott Gould, Tom Skerritt, Sally Kellerman, and Robert Duvall. I first saw the movie that summer at a drive-in theater with my parents. I loved it! It was funny and poked fun at authority; just the kind of thing to appeal to a twelve-year-old. My mother was quite upset by the film, although she claimed to be more bothered by the blood in the surgical scenes than by the dialogue, which included several words I would have been slapped for saying myself.

Within a few years a hit situation comedy based on the novel and movie was developed by Larry Gelbart. It ran for eleven years, and made stars out of Alan Alda, Wayne Rogers, Loretta Swit, Mike Farrell, David Ogden Stiers, Gary Burghoff, Jamie Farr, and virtually everyone who landed a major role in the show. A top-ten rated series for most of its original run, M*A*S*H is still a popular resident of syndication, and is well known to most people.

Rather less well known is the fact that Richard Hooker, who did not participate in the production of either the movie or the TV series, went on to write several sequels to the original novel. I found some of them in used book stores starting in the late 1970s.

It should be noted that these books continue the characters as developed in the original novel, on which the movie was based, and have nothing whatever to do with the TV series. This means that if your only exposure to M*A*S*H has been through the sitcom, you really need to read the original M*A*S*H novel and M*A*S*H Goes To Maine before starting any of the others. As a single example of the inconsistencies, the TV Hawkeye was an only child whose father was a physician. Hawkeye as presented in these novels is from a large family, the brood of a Maine lobsterman.

M*A*S*H Goes To Maine

M*A*S*H Goes To Maine, by Richard Hooker, was published in hardcover by William Morrow in February 1972. The Pocket Book paperback reprint came out in January 1973. This books picks up the tale of Hawkeye Pierce shortly after his return from Korea. After passing his general surgical boards, Hawkeye is persuaded by Trapper John to move to the New York City area for a couple of years and complete his residency in thoracic surgery. Hawkeye turns down an invitation to become a part of the "Cardia Nostra," the big league of heart surgeons to which Trapper belongs. Instead he returns to Maine, there to reside in Crabapple Cove while becoming the top surgeon in nearby Spruce Harbor. By the end of the book Hawkeye manages to lure the rest of the inmates of "The Swamp" to Spruce Harbor where they continue their madcap antics. Oddly, one of the best chapters in this screwball comedy is the serious, tear-jerking tale of Hawkeye's attempts to save the life of Jonas "Moose" Lord, a lobsterman who had been a friend to every kid growing up in Crabapple Cove for years (including the young Hawkeye).

The rest of these novels were cowritten by Richard Hooker and William E. Butterworth. They were published as paperbacks by Pocket Books. They all have advertising language on their covers relating them to the M*A*S*H TV series, although (as mentioned) they having nothing to do with that show. The sitcom *was* one of the most popular shows on the air when these novels were published, which explains everything.

M*A*S*H Goes To New Orleans

M*A*S*H Goes To New Orleans was released in January 1975. In this story, Hawkeye is drugged by his loving wife and spirited to New Orleans by Trapper John. The idea is to get Hawkeye well out of the way while his fourth child is born, since he was driving everyone nuts. While in New Orleans, our heroes try desperately to avoid attending any convention sessions of the American Tonsil, Adenoid and Vas Deferens Society (Francis Burns, M.D. - Public Affairs Vice President). By several extraordinary coincidences (read: plot devices), a few other 4077 alumni are staying in the same hotel. These include Hot Lips, Father (now Archbishop) John Mulcahy, and Jean-Pierre "Horsey" de la Chevaux, a former infantry sergeant whose leg was once saved at the 4077th MASH. Horsey, now a petroleum millionaire, is a regular inhabitant of these novels. He's usually accompanied by his comrades, the drunken members of the Bayou Perdu Council, Knights of Columbus.

M*A*S*H Goes To Paris

M*A*S*H Goes To Paris was also released in January 1975. The French government is giving out awards, and the recipients include Radar O'Reilly, mid-western fast food tycoon, and Hot Lips, who is now a religious leader. A new regular character introduced here is Boris Korsky-Rimsakov, a world renown opera singer whose life was once saved at a certain MASH unit in Korea (what a convenient, and oft used, plot device).

M*A*S*H Goes To London

M*A*S*H Goes To London was released in June 1975. England may never recover from the visit of the 4077 alumni. The aristocracy of two continents are hammered in this book, which features the presence of a U.S. Secretary of State with a thick German accent. I wonder who that is supposed to be?

M*A*S*H Goes To Las Vegas

M*A*S*H Goes To Las Vegas was released in January 1976. This story revolves around the activities of the mysterious "Matthew Q. Framingham Theosophical Foundation," of which Hawkeye Pierce is a long time member. It features Radar's wedding at Nero's Villa.

M*A*S*H Goes To Vienna

M*A*S*H Goes To Vienna was released in June 1976. The Swamp Rats and a good portion of the new characters from M*A*S*H Goes To London descend on the home of wiener schnitzel. The heavily accented Secretary of State makes another appearance.

These novels are not, in general, great literature. They make good light entertainment, though. If you like parodies of politicians, the medical profession, Hollywood, opera, and religion (which is redundant, given the other items on the list) you should enjoy these novels. The above list of M*A*S*H novels is not complete. These are the ones I own so far. I'm still combing used book stores for the records of the M*A*S*H gang's journeys to: Hollywood, Miami, Texas, Montreal, Morocco, and San Francisco.

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Dave Bealer is a fifty-something mainframe systems programmer who works with CICS, z/OS and all manner of nasty acronyms at one of the largest heavy metal shops on the East Coast. He shares a waterfront townhome in Pasadena, MD. with a cat who annoys him endlessly as he assiduously avoids writing for and publishing Random Access Humor. Dave can be reached via e-mail at:

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