Hank Reinhardt would have turned eighty-five today. Though I never knew him personally, Hank affected my life in some unique ways and he shall receive due honor from me for that. If you don't know who Hank Reinhardt was, check out the hyperlink above or read on.
I first learned of Mr. Reinhardt when I bought the DAW sword and sorcery anthology--quite possibly the greatest ever published--Heroic Fantasy. Hank was co-editor of that book along with Gerald W. Page. Reinhardt also had a fine story in that volume, "The Age of the Warrior," but what really caught my weapon/historical geek's eye were the articles interspersed between the tales of adventure and bloody mayhem. Hank wrote those and they were awesome. There were only three. One on armor, one on swords and one on courage. They really put the cherry on top of the whole anthology. Reading the articles, you got a sense of who this guy, Hank Reinhardt, was. That sense was, "This guy is pretty cool and knows his history and weapons. I'd love to have a beer with this dude."
Fast forward a few years and a buddy of mine throws a little catalog at me, saying he thought I'd dig it. It was one of the first catalogs for Museum Replicas. Crammed full of cool-looking (i.e., authentic) swords and other edged weapons. Looking at the fine print, as I usually do, I found out that the co-founder of Museum Replicas was Reinhardt. That immediately upped the street cred of the company in my mind.
At the time, I was too busy buying guitars and amps to have enough extra disposable income to buy anything big from MuseReps, but I did buy some of the cool little knick-knacks they offered, just to support the company and keep the catalogs coming. Hank, in collaboration with the legendary Ewart Oakeshott, just kept finding cool stuff to replicate.
In the mid-'90s, another friend of mine passed along a catalog for an antiquities auction. One of the items was this bad-ass bronze axe-head from Pakistan. It looked closer to the axe-head of Frazetta's "Death Dealer" axe than anything else I'd ever seen in real life, only this had three pyramidal spikes on the backside to make it even more bad-ass.
I decided that Hank had to know about this. I wrote him a letter giving him the catalog number and whatnot and asked him if Museum Replicas might think about replicating it in steel. I also mentioned Heroic Fantasy and asked if he'd ever thought about writing another story, since I'd enjoyed "The Age of the Warrior" so much. I really didn't expect an answer back. Lo and behold, a reply from Hank came in a couple of weeks later.
Hank thanked me for my letter and said, yeah, the axe was pretty damned cool but that the odds were they wouldn't be doing it anytime soon, since it was now privately owned. He also told me that he really hadn't felt like writing any more fiction since his wife died.*
To me, the fact that he took time out of his life to answer that letter was pretty damned cool. I kept that letter through all my later moves, only to lose it with all my other memorabilia--and books and LPs and everything--in the Flood of 2012.
Mr. Reinhardt answering my letter was just how he rolled. He was a legend in Southern SFF fandom for fifty years. He loved hanging out with people and talking swordplay, Eric John Stark or Conan of Cimmeria. I mean, this was the guy who shipped a frikkin' axe to John Maddox Roberts while JMR was serving in 'Nam just so John would have that extra little edge versus the VC. If you were his people, Hank had your back.
I could go on about how Hank founded the group which ended up becoming ARMA or his friendship with Ewart Oakeshott or his legendary exploits at Southern SFF conventions in the '60s and '70s, but I want to finish with a plug for Hank's two other books beside Heroic Fantasy. The Book of Swords is excellent. A great book for anyone interested in the history of swords and what we know about medieval sword-fighting. There is also Hank Reinhardt's Book of Knives, which is an outstanding, practical primer on knives and knife-fighting. It also has cool testimonials from many of Hank's friends and teammates in the sword/knife-fighting field.
Hank Reinhardt. There'll never be another like him. More's the pity.
*This was before his marriage to Toni Weisskopf.