Is there an edition of The Plague Dogs which does not end with "Deus ex Machina"?
June 21, 2011 11:21 AM   Subscribe

The first edition of Richard Adams' The Plague Dogs doesn't contain the final chapter from later editions (the one titled "Deus ex Machina")... or so Wikipedia claims. Can anyone confirm? (spoilers inside)

As I mentioned here, I have an Allen Lane 1977 edition of The Plague Dogs, which is supposedly the first UK printing. It doesn't have the "colloquy between the author and his reader" or the excerpt from Who's Who which appear in later printings, but it does end with "Deus ex Machina" and the dogs' unlikely rescue from the sea, same as later editions do.

Do you know of an edition which does not end this way? If so, please post details. I won't be surprised if Wikipedia is wrong about this, but if not, I'd love to get my hands on a copy!
posted by vorfeed to Media & Arts (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: One thing I just noticed: according to the history, Wiki user Tashtish's edit on April 13, 2010 mentions the "addendum", but not the idea that it didn't appear in the first edition. All mention of the "addendum" is deleted on April 23. Then on May 19th, TashTish makes a point of it: (reinstituted original edition's ending and the addendum in SUBSEQUENT editions of the book)

Strange, to go from not even mentioning this to being certain of it in just one month. Maybe this is merely a fictitious salvo in a Wiki war... or, perhaps, he or she got a copy of this ~mysterious~ edition in the meantime?
posted by vorfeed at 11:58 AM on June 21, 2011

Best answer: This is probably best posted as a question on User talk:TashTish, but I'll drop a note there pointing the editor here, and asking for a reply posted there (where they have an account).
posted by dhartung at 10:52 PM on June 21, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks, I appreciate it! With any luck they can help me snag a copy.
posted by vorfeed at 11:50 PM on June 21, 2011

Response by poster: Oh, and I just noticed this chapter in the Allen Lane edition isn't actually titled "Deus ex Machina" -- way to remember it, sorry! I feel a bit bad about the wiki war joke in retrospect, also. :P My apologies.

I wonder if this book isn't a first edition, though it was sold as such. What it says is:

"Allen Lane
In association with
Rex Collings Ltd
First published 1977
Copyright Richard Adams, 1977".

ISBN is: 0 7139 1055 0, and it has the same cover as in the Wikipedia article.

If this isn't the right one, I'd love to know what the difference(s) are so I could track one down online...!
posted by vorfeed at 1:09 AM on June 22, 2011

Best answer: For posterity, here is the answer from TashTish:

I appreciate your (and vorfeed's) sincere request for more information re the absence of the last chapter in any edition of the novel.

The fact is I have little hard evidence that an edition ending with the penultimate chapter actually exists. What I do know is that author Richard Adams stated in an interview that the eventual ending was championed by his editor upon original submission of the manuscript. According to the interview, after disastrous test readings, Adams reluctantly succumbed to the need for a revised denouement. I also recall (with less veracity) that he modified the last chapter to mitigate its admitted contrivance, which may explain vorfeed's edition which omits the chapter title "Deus ex Machina," the colloquy with the reader, and Lockley's Who's Who entry.

Martin Rosen, the producer of the film version which retains the ambiguous conclusion, also stated in an interview that he "felt the unfettered finale was more appropriate and true to the consistency of the tone of the film." Whether that implies it ever existed as the finale in book form is likewise ambiguous, I agree. The only other shred of proof I could dig up is the insistence of several readers on the web that they have (or recall) editions without the happy ending. (Poor form, I admit.)

I figured a compromise was to allude to the contrivance as an "addendum," nonetheless acknowledging its existence as the "official" ending. Of course, if either of you feel this is fantasy rationalization, I would not take any re-edit my contribution as a personal affront. :-D –TashTish (talk) 17:15, 22 June 2011 (UTC)

posted by vorfeed at 2:28 PM on June 22, 2011

Response by poster: To TashTish:

I really, really appreciate the clarification. Thank you, this is exactly what I was looking for!

To be honest, it sounds to me as if it's likely (or at least quite possible) that the original ending never made it into print. I think it might be best to acknowledge that in the article, at least until hard evidence surfaces. I think it's more than fair to call the last chapter an "addendum" -- the book itself heavily implies that the rescue may not truly have happened, and I've always thought Adams' intention was for the reader to choose the ending he or she prefers -- but maybe it's best not to definitively state that it didn't exist in the first edition...?

If you can track that interview down, I think it might even be neat to discuss the "alternate ending" possibility under a separate heading in the article, especially since the ending has always been somewhat controversial. The last chapter does feel very "tacked-on", whether it was added before or after the book went to print.

At any rate, I know nothing about editing Wikipedia, so I'll leave that up to you. Thanks again for the kind reply to my question!
posted by vorfeed at 2:37 PM on June 22, 2011

Response by poster: Also: thanks so much, dhartung. If it weren't for you I'd never have gotten an answer. Yer a reet mazer wi' wikis!
posted by vorfeed at 2:42 PM on June 22, 2011

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