M*A*S*H GOES TO SAN FRANCISCO
By Richard Hooker and William E. Butterworth
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
Following the success of Richard Hooker's novel MASH, and especially the success of the film and television series based on it, Hook published a sequel, M*A*S*H Goes to Maine. That novel loosely reunited the denizens of the Swamp in a medical facility in Spruce Harbor, Maine, but failed to recapture the tone of the original novel or the works based on it. Subsequently, Hooker "co-wrote" a series of twelve novels with William E. Butterworth before reclaiming the series with M*A*S*H Mania (and ignoring the co-written books). The collaborations, however, were mostly written by Butterworth (who went on to greater success as W.E.B. Griffin). Over the course of the novels, he introduced numerous of his own characters, although Hooker's original characters continued to crop up. M*A*S*H Goes to San Francisco was the fifth of these novels.
Reading M*A*S*H Goes to San Francisco in an attempt to read about the characters familiar from Hooker's books, the film, or the television series will be disappointed. Although Hawkeye, Trapper John, Margaret Houlihan, Radar, and Frank Burns are all present, most of them are completely changed based on Butterworth's earlier books. Houlihan is now the high priestess of a cult and Radar (here, real name J. Robespierre O'Reilly) is married to an opera singer. The main action follows the characters they interact with, Radar's brother-in-law Boris Korsky-Rimsakov, Colonel C. Edward Whiley and his son Cornelius Sattyn-Whiley, and student nurse Barbara Ann Miller. Hooker's characters interact with them, but mostly are in supporting roles.Unfortunately, M*A*S*H Goes to San Francisco is primarily an unsuccessful farce, written in broad strokes and with a juvenile sense of humor that attempts to be topical with broad satire that failed to his its mark when the novel was published and completely fails to launch several decades later (Boris Korsky-Rimsakov's name is just one example of the wit of the novel). Furthermore, while the original novel had misogynistic underpinnings, Butterworth has leaned into the misogyny and focused on good bit of attention to it. Houlihan remains the object of lust for Frank Burns, who travels across the country (with his wife) in the hopes of rekindling his affair with her. Nurse Miller is a former stripper who is most notable for her physical assets and her effect on the men around her. At the same time, Hawkeye and Trapper John are among those who can see past the physical attractions of the various female characters and treat them as individuals.
The novel is also disjointed, jumping around from character to character and introducing plotlines and characters late in the narrative. Horsey de la Chevaux and San Sebastian president Francisco Hernandez suddenly appear, and although their story, or at least Hernandez's, eventually ties into one of the other subplots in the novel, the action is so fragment it is difficult to keep track of how (or even if) the various pieces fit together. Other storylines, such as Frank Burns' trip to San Francisco ends so precipitously that it almost feels as if Butterworth had lost interest in Burns' story arc.
Hooker's original novel was filled with black humor and his first sequel, M*A*S*H Goes to Maine attempted to take some of those characters and try to place them in a less bleak setting, Butterworth formulated M*A*S*H Goes to San Francisco as a broad farce and an attempt at satire that fails to hit its targets more often than not. The difference in tone in jarring and although Butterworth includes many of the characters from the original novel, it feels less like a visit with old friends and more like a book that is merely trying to using familiar names in unfamiliar ways.
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