More than one hundred people voted in last month’s poll, which asked “Have you read the novel MASH?” The majority of poll takers (67% to be exact) said no. MASH: A Novel About Three Army Doctors, written by Richard Hooker (the pen name of real life surgeon and Korean War veteran H. Richard Hornberger) with collaborator W. C. Heinz, was originally published in 1968. I have read it, once, but remember very little about it. Over the years I have considered rereading it, particularly to see how Larry Gelbart took a minor plot line in the novel involving a raffle to raise money for Ho Jon and turned it into the pilot episode of M*A*S*H (recall that the end credits to “M*A*S*H – The Pilot” state “Based on a Novel by Richard Hooker”). As a huge fan of television tie-in novels, I have always regretted the fact that there were never any original novels based on M*A*S*H the television series featuring the characters as the developed on the small screen.
At one point, more than a decade ago, I toyed with the idea of expanding the scope of this website to focus on the novel and the film in addition to the television series (and the play, too, for good measure). But I thought better of it. M*A*S*H — the television series is distinct from both the novel and the film, both of which are likewise different from one another. In fact, I have read that the original screenplay for MASH was quite a bit different than the final film.
So, for those who have read MASH: A Novel About Three Army Doctors, what are your thoughts? For those who haven’t, why haven’t you? Has anyone read all 15 novels (the bulk of which were written by Richard Hooker and William E. Butterworth; Hooker himself only wrote two additional novels on his own)?