Bookshelf: Welcome Back, Kotter #2 – The Sweathog Newshawks

Welcome Back, Kotter #2 – The Sweathog Newshawks
By William Johnston
First Published in 1976
Published by Tempo Books
157 Pages

This is one of six tie-in novels based on ABC’s Welcome Back, Kotter published by Tempo Books between 1976 and 1977. They were all written by prolific tie-in novelist William Johnston. I have two in my collection, #2 The Sweathog Newshawks and #5 The Sweathog Sit-In. My copy of The Sweathog Newshawks is in pretty good shape aside from a upper right hand corner of the front cover where a price sticker was torn off and “30” written in marker.

I’m a pretty big fan of Welcome Back, Kotter, partly because of the humor and partly because I’m fond of actress Marcia Strassman. Unfortunately, this novel just doesn’t do the series justice. Certainly, the humor in the show was juvenile and the plots often thin or even non-existent. But The Sweathog Newshawks is beyond juvenile. It’s unbelievable, in fact. The story pits the Sweathogs against Mr. Woodman, which is par for the course.

The Sweathog Newshawks Front
The Sweathog Newshawks Front – Copyright 1976 Tempo Books

Woodman is in charge of the school’s newspaper, the Booster, and rejects an article written by Freddie “Boom-Boom” Washington. So, at the urging of Mr. Kotter, the Sweathogs decide to start their own paper, the Sweathog (the back cover refers to it as The Sweathog Press). But they don’t want to do all the reporting, so they just make things up and don’t name names. The first issue is incredibly popular but after everyone realizes that the promised sex and human interest isn’t all that interesting when all involved are anonymous.

Plus, the Sweathogs have taken over the Kotter’s living room, annoying Mr. Kotter, and there are some dangerous thugs threatening everyone due to one of the anonymous articles in the Sweathog. Mr. Woodman tries to force the paper to close but the school’s lawyer sides with the Sweathogs. Eventually, after they realize how much money they aren’t making, the Sweathogs decide to give up the paper. Thankfully, Mr. Kotter is able to convince Mr. Woodman to let them take over the Booster, so everything works out well in the end.

The Sweathog Newshawks Back
The Sweathog Newshawks Back – Copyright 1976 Tempo Books

I didn’t laugh or even chuckle once while reading this novel. It just wasn’t funny. None of the characters were particularly fleshed out and aside from the occasional “Hahh…hahh…hahh” from Horshack, the show’s catchphrases are nonexistent. Of course, it could be that when William Johnston was writing this those catchphrases had yet to be finalized.

One final thing. Opposite the title page, where a list of related books is often printed, the following can be found:

So you missed Welcome Back, Kotter #1. Well, no hard feelings. You get another chance.

THE SWEATHOG TRIAL, by William Johnston, $1.25 is available now. Ask your local bookseller!

Don’t mess it up!

Sadly, that’s probably the funniest thing in the whole book.


3 Comments

  • Barry I. Grauman says:

    The term “30”, in newspaper lingo, also means “End”.

    William Johnston, as previously noted, was a very prolific author of “TV tie-in” novels (mostly for Tempo Books) in the ’60s and ’70s. Sometimes, he failed to recreate the “essence” of the series he was supposed to adapt, while at other times [as in his “FLYING NUN” stories], he was brilliant. The fact there were at least five volumes of “WELCOME BACK, KOTTER” paperbacks proved he did SOMETHING right when creating original stories for them.

  • Benzadmiral says:

    Johnston’s “Get Smart” novels and the one “Captain Nice” novel (1966) were funny, and captured much of the flavor of the shows. Well, not even Babe Ruth could hit a home run every time.

  • Barry I. Grauman says:

    There! I appreciate your comment, ‘Benzadmiral’….

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