What is it?
Herz, Peggy. All About M*A*S*H. New York: Scholastic Book Services, 1975.
Why should M*A*S*H fans care?
This is an early book written approximately the series, and it was written for young adults. It is a very interesting part of the early history of the series and was published just as M*A*S*H was beginning its fourth season with some new cast members.
As a M*A*S*H fan, what part(s) should I read?
All of it! It is only 92 pages!
This is a brilliant introduction to the early seasons of M*A*S*H. Having been published in 1975, just before the series began its fourth season, the series had not aired yet with the new characters replacing Col. Henry Blake and Trapper McIntyre. So this book was published just as the series underwent its first major transition.
Full disclosure: I worked for Scholastic in various roles from 2004 to 2009 and again from 2012 to 2018. All opinions expressed in this review are my own.
In my research, it appears author Peggy Herz wrote for Scholastic News and published a series of pop culture books for Scholastic in the 1970s. As you read this book, her role as a writer of articles for young adults becomes transparent. That isn’t a criticism. This book is very well written, and it is broken up into chapters that could serve as stand alone articles (and some might have in Scholastic News). The book has eleven chapters, and each focuses on a different aspect of the series or actor. That makes this book very readable as it is a series of short stories all about M*A*S*H.
Each of the eleven chapters are filled with biographical information about the actors, information approximately the series, and a number of quotes. Series creator Larry Gelbart is often quoted, as is Gene Reynolds. The first chapter features the familiar story of adapting M*A*S*H for television and asks a very reasonable question in its title: “Was TV Ready for a Comedy About War?” We know that Gelbart, Reynolds, and Alan Alda worked to ensure that M*A*S*H didn’t become a war comedy like other series. The creators vowed to maintain “respect for human life and dignity.” The next chapters provide a biography for each of the major actors in the series: Alda, Wayne Rogers, Gary Burghoff, Loretta Swit, Larry Linville, and McLean Stevenson. The last chapters include a biography of H. Richard Hornberger, the author of the original novel, and hypothesis about what was next for the series given how the third season of M*A*S*H ended.
That’s right, this book was published before the fourth season began, but it was written after the ultimate episode of season three aired. The author discusses the death of Col. Henry Blake, Harry Morgan replacing Stevenson as commanding officer, and the possible repercussions. What isn’t discussed is the fact that Rogers also left the series between seasons three and four. Most likely the book went to print before his departure was announced. But that is what makes this a brilliant relic of 1975. This book was written while M*A*S*H was still in production and as a major transition for the series took place. In fact, the first sentence of the ultimate paragraph of the book begins, “M*A*S*H is now a big hit, but nothing in the show has changed much.” The series would go through several major cast changes over eleven years, but the basic heart of the show never changed, and that is why fans are still watching almost 50 years later!
Just a quick note about this copy of the book. I have had it in my collection for over ten years, and when it arrived, I was pleasantly surprised to see the original TAB (the Book Club flyer for teens) order form from the student who purchased the book in September 1975. The Scholastic book orders are a fond reminiscence of mine from school (as are the Scholastic Book Fairs). TAB is still being distributed in classrooms today, and buying a copy with the original order form is special to me given my connection with Scholastic.