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Richard Hooker

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Richard Hooker

Richard Hooker

H. Richard Hornberger
(February 1, 1924 – November 4, 1997) was an American writer and surgeon, born in Trenton, New Jersey, who wrote under the pseudonym Richard Hooker. His most famous work was MASH: A Novel About Three Army Doctors (1968), written in collaboration with W.C. Heinz, and which became the basis for a critically and commercially successful movie and television series.

Education and military experienceEdit

Born in Trenton, New Jersey, Hornberger attended the Peddie School in Hightstown, New Jersey.[1] He then graduated from Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, where he was an active member of the Beta Theta Pi Fraternity, and trained at Cornell Medical School before becoming a physician for the U.S. Army during the Korean War. He used his experience at the 8055th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital as background for his work.

Success of MASHEdit

Hornberger worked eleven years on his debut novel, MASH, which was rejected by many publishers before he contacted the famed sportswriter, W.C. Heinz, to help him revise it. A year later, the book was acquired by the William Morrow and Company.[2] Ultimately, the book (released under Hornberger's pseudonym, Richard Hooker), proved amazingly successful. The novel quickly inspired an Academy Award-winning film released in 1970 and a widely popular television series that lasted eleven seasons. Hornberger reportedly did not like Alan Alda's portrayal in the TV series,[3] although he viewed the original Robert Altman movie many times, in which Pierce was played by Donald Sutherland.

According to John Baxter in A Pound of Paper: Confessions of a Book Addict, Hornberger "was so furious at having sold the film rights for only a few hundred dollars that he never again signed a copy of the book" (203).

SequelsEdit

Hornberger wrote sequels to MASH, M*A*S*H* Goes to Maine (1972) and M*A*S*H Mania (1977), neither of which enjoyed the commercial success of the original. Nevertheless, there were efforts to adapt M*A*S*H Goes to Maine into a film. Both books' portrayals of the characters were entirely independent of the movie and TV characterizations, as they were based upon Hornberger's own experiences after the Korean War, which included a stint working for the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, qualifying for his surgical boards and then setting himself up in private practice.

While M*A*S*H*: A Novel About Three Army Doctors was a fairly faithful reflection of Hornberger's service in Korea, the sequels M*A*S*H Goes to Maine and M*A*S*H Mania were diverse representations of the "Swamp Gang's" post-Korea activities in the fictional town of Spruce Harbour, Maine, from 1953 to the 1970s. These activities mirrored Hornberger's settling in the area surrounding Waterville, Maine, up to the publication of M*A*S*H Mania in 1977. The latter two novels are characterised by gentle humour, stereotypical local characters and a nostalgic look at Maine and its people through Hornberger's eyes. Throughout, the "Swamp Gang" prospers, gets its own way most of the time and generally become more conservative as the years pass, playing golf and being a thorn in the side of "summer complaints" and the local hierarchy.

Hornberger's departure from the franchiseEdit

In addition, there was an extensive series of books (bearing Hooker's name but ghostwritten by William E. Butterworth) in which the characters travel to Moscow, New Orleans, San Francisco, Paris, etc. These were hastily written to capitalize on the TV show's popularity and were of dubious literary merit. The action was transposed to the 1970s so that people such as Henry Kissinger could be lampooned, but this would have made some of the characters quite old, if the descriptions in the first book were to be believed. For instance, Hot Lips would have been into her 60s, having been described as "fortyish" in the first novel.

Even after the success of his book and its screen adaptations, Hornberger remained a surgeon in Waterville, Maine, until his retirement in 1988. He died at the age of 73 on 4 November 1997 of leukemia.

ReferencesEdit

  1. Staff. Richard Hornberger (Obituary), Variety (magazine), November 20, 1997, accessed February 27,2011. "But in an interview last year with the Peddie News, the student newspaper of his prep school in New Jersey, Hornberger said he couldn't understand why the Robert Altman-directed film and the TV series were assailed for anti-war themes during the Vietnam War."
  2. H. Richard Hornberger, 73, Surgeon Behind 'M*A*S*H' - The New York Times
  3. Literary Encyclopedia

External linksEdit

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