Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Friday, June 14, 2019


Kuttner Times Three by Henry Kuttner (1988)

A slim, fan-produced booklet of three rare stories by Henry Kuttner assembled by Virgil Utter in a limited run of 200 typed copies to mark the 30th anniversary of Kuttner's death, Kuttner Times Three has long been a difficult volume to obtain.  Until this week.  It is now available online at Internet Archive and Kuttner fans should definitely check it out.

Kuttner (1915-1958) was one of the most popular and prolific writers of pulp science fiction and fantasy, publishing stories under at least two dozen names.  Much of his early work was slap-dashed
and formulaic but his later stories included many absolute gems, especially after his marriage to fellow writer Catherine {C. L.} Moore.  Moore was his frequent collaborator (often uncredited) and their partnership often produced stories so seamless that no one could tell what parts were written by Kuttner and what parts by Moore.  Kuttner (an Moore) have enjoyed a resurgence lately, with massive retrospection collections from Haffner Press and Centipede Press, including an omnibus of the four Michael Grey mysteries originally published by Permabooks (1956-8).  Kuttner died way to early at age 43 -- about six weeks before fellow SF great C. M. Kornbluth died at age 34.  (I'm always struck by how many of my favorite authors die long before their time...Stanley G. Weinbaum, Charles Beaumont, Tom Reamy, and so many more.)

Back to Kuttner Times Three.  The first story, "The Old Army Game," comes from Thrilling Adventures, November 1941 and is actually the first story in Kuttner's Hogben series.  The Hogbens are a strange hillbilly family of mutants, steeped in corn likker and feudin' and somewhat at odds with modern civilization.  Consider this story a try-out for the four  tales that followed it.  More of a tall tale than a SF or fantasy story, "The Old Army Game" follows in the tradition of Robert E. Howard's Breckinridge Elkins or Pike Bearfield stories.  Young Huet Hogben (twenty-two, but not yet reached his full growth being only just a mite over six feet tall) has been drafted.  His army buddy's Grandpa Eliphalet has developed a new alloy that will improve America's war planes and the Nazis are out to get the formula.  Huet does not want to interfere because his Maw always told him not to get mixed up in other folks' feudin', but when Nazis rudely threaten Huet's hidden still, well, that's going just too far.  Six years after this story was published, Kuttner returned to the Hogbens with the first of four (far more refined and overtly fantastical} stories that firmly established the series as a fan favorite.  "The Old Army Game" had not b.een reprinted before this booklet and has only been reprinted one other time, in the Borderland Press 2013 collection The Hogben Chronicles.

The other Hogben tales, all published in Thrilling Wonder Stories, are:  "Exit the Professor" (October 1947; with co-author C. L. Moore uncredited); "Pile of Trouble" (April 1948); "See You Later" (June 1949; with co-author C. L. Moore uncredited); and "Cold War" (October 1949; with co-author C. L. Moore uncredited).

The second story in this collection is "Bamboo Death" (Thrilling Mystery, June 1936) which Utter in his introduction claims to be Kuttner's second published story.  "The Graveyard Rats," often pointed out as Kuttner's first published story appeared in the March 1936 issue of Weird Tales, but -- according to ISFDb -- Kuttner's first story was, in fact, "The Monkey Wrench" (Jungle Stories, August 1931, as by "Bertram W. Williams").   "Bamboo Death" was actually Kuttner's third published story.  Update:  Not so.  See Stephen Haffner's response below.

Young Joan Masson has inherited her uncle's Florida estate, located deep in the Everglades.  With her friend/maybe-fiance Lee Dean, Joan travels to the run-down, Southern Gothic-y estate, only to discover that the hulking, brain-damaged Quentin has had the run of the place for years.  Joan's uncle, who never approached the estate had imported Indian bamboo plants so that Quentin could perform his "experiments" in an effort to produce immortality, a la the Fountain of Youth.  Quentin has constructed bamboo cages to torture animals of all sorts.  (Since bamboo can grow an inch an hour, animals are placed on bamboos shoots topped with sharp metallic needles which soon grow to pierce the bodies.  Makes no sense to me -- or to anyone, other than the sadistic, mad Quentin.)  You can see where this is going.  The story could easily have been printed in any issue of Terror Tales or Dime Detective.  "Bamboo Death" has been reprinted in the Haffner Preess edition of Terror in the House:  The Early Kuttner, Volume One (2010).

The final story in this booklet, "The Wolf of Aragon," comes from the July 1941 issue of Thrilling Adventures.  Juan Vasquez, the son of full-blooded Aztec woman and  a conquistador who had bequeathed his ranchero in old Mexico to Juan, is due to be wed when he received a summons from Ixtal, a giant native said to be born in the time of Montezuma.  Because he is half-Aztec, Ixtal said, Juan must marry an Aztec girl rather than his betrothed Spanish senorita.  Juan refuses to forsake his beloved Rosita.  Ixtal predicts dire consequences will come from that decision.   Then..."Fromthe blood-stained chaos of Europe came the Wold of Aragon.  A renegade and a killer, driven across continents by outraged kings, Don Diego of Aragon went yelling and slaying into the New World.  Plundr and murder followed his steed's hoofbeats."  Don Diego's murderous trail soon crossed Juan's ranchero, leaving Rosita's crushed body behind.  Juan sets out for vengeance, hoping that he might be aided by the Feathered Serpent of his ancestors.

All three tales are very minor ones and I loved them all.

I'm glad they are finally available to Kuttner fans.  Check it out.


  1. ISFDB is wrong about Kuttner's first story. Kuttner would have been around 16 years old in 1931 and EXTREMELY unlikely to have authored "The Monkey Wrench" in JUNGLE STORIES.

    "Bertram W. Williams" was a house-name and an overzealous amateur modified ISFDB erroneously. The confusion stems from the fact that Kuttner DID have a story in STRANGE STORIES with the Williams name, "The Curse of the Crocodile, August 1939.

    "The Graveyard Rats," is Kuttner's first story in print, but not his first sale. Kuttner's first sale was a poem {"Ballad of the Gods") to WEIRD TALES. All of this is recorded in the Kuttner letters to H.P. Lovecraft.