I expected M*A*S*H (the book) to be like a poor man’s Catch-22, and indeed it is. However that poor man will finish it a lot quicker, be able to read good, hearty, storyful chunks of it on the crapper AND be acquainted with the madness of war.

Actually that madness of war thing. Surely one of the easiest things to write about. People being paid to shoot people who they personally don’t know or probably mind over poxy disputes about land. You try and fuck up showing the ironies of that one. Perhaps only Culture Club have really made a fool of themselves on this issue.

But back to M*A*S*H by Richard Hooker (I don’t ever remember a credit for him on the TV series, but could be wrong). All the usual bits are four-square and centre. Hawkeye Pierce, Trapper, Radar, Hotlips: all rattled of with a war is hell message of non-conformism. The problem is that as these are not frontline military personal there is never a feeling that these people are in danger. They are a step removed, commenting on the madness of the Korean war too, rather than being in danger of dying. The TV series reduced the core cast (got rid of The Duke as he was too similar to Trapper and Hawkeye) and via necessity of a changing cast invented some new ones. The formula though remains the same and the episodic nature of the book actually makes for an obvious sitcom.

The episodic book splits almost into thirteen short stories, with little excessive continuity over the span. So whilst the theme may reflect Catch-22, what it mainly reminded me of was James Herriot. M*A*S*H is the All Creatures Great And Small of the “war is mad” bookset, and therefore is probably best seen in film or television form. (And if its power is due to the cumulative effect of the episodes, the TV series with 251 is probably the most powerful: if time consuming, repetitive and often trite.)