JH Lynch in Kalk Bay

 I’m no expert on art and I’m no expert on JH Lynch. I discovered the mystery artist quite by mistake in Kalk Bay. You really shouldn’t walk into Big Blue if you set out that morning planning not to buy anything except a cup of coffee or an ice-cream. I ended up buying a set of 6 coasters for R120.00 that reminded me of the Roman Noir covers I’d been perusing while doing research for a new thriller. My latest character is a bit of a femme fatale herself and there was something reminiscent about these women; as if they were all part of dream encounters I’d been sorry to leave behind.

Without really thinking about it I commented how amazing (I meant mesmerizing) the women’s faces on the coasters were. The shop assistant at the cash till said the artist was somebody Lynch. Did you say David Lynch? I asked, mishearing. No, she said, giving me a quick look, realising I didn’t actually have any idea. That’s how I discovered JH Lynch, right there in Kalk Bay, the atmospheric seaside town where Anthony Loxton hijacked my imagination one dark night long after midnight, resulting in The Good Cemetery Guide. There’s something about the place; I always seem to find something I don’t even know I’m looking for. No, for the record, I don’t live there. I just pass through occasionally. That’s the nature of our relationship and it suits us both. Neither of us gets bored with the other that way.

So now I have three of JH Lynch’s fabulous femme fatales gracing my header after months of sitting on my desk lending me inspiration.  When the right energy was lacking I’d shuffle them between my hands like tarot cards, marvelling at the full-lipped seductive power of those expressive faces – women with a certain bring-it-on laissez-faire attitude to love.


QI: JH Lynch’s pictures appeared in Kubrick’s Clockwork Orange. Did they epitomise kitsch? Or did Kubrick employ their temptress power on a subliminal level to draw us into his game? Rumours persist that JH Lynch was a woman.


Okuribito_(2008)Departures is the cool name of an astonishingly beautiful Japanese movie (academy award for best foreign-language film) about an out-of-work cellist who ends up working in a funeral home by mistake and proves to have a calling. It makes one think of a Departures lounge at an airport – as if we’re all just in transit from here to somewhere. In the movie the father bequeathes the wonderful idea of stone letters to his young son; he disappears out of the boy’s life but the quaint story remains behind.

I experienced the pang of writer’s envy – what a fantastic idea… wrapping the fingers of the mother of your unborn child around a stone you have selected… a simple powerful image to weave past and present together, as well as make the emotional high point (see the movie!) –  a potentially corny moment – totally believeable.

In The Good Cemetery Guide the only thing Anthony Loxton’s father left him was the ability to speak to the dead; imagination and a reaching out for grace was not permitted; so Anthony unloaded onto a Mexican puppet and dreamt of Mexico which was as far away from Kalk Bay as any place he knew. Being the kind of person who picks up random stones and rocks everywhere she goes the delightful idea of the look and feel of a stone evoking unspoken thoughts and emotions – a wordless letter – resonates with me in a big way.

One can almost hear the beating heart of a stone as it rests quietly in one’s hand; it’s 41uD0FfHGTL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_sometimes warm and sometimes cold but always oddly mystical, this nugget of rock created by cosmic activity and ancient weather patterns. Hence the borrowed category title: Stone Letters. The entire significance always seems to escape one: the felt whole is always greater than the sum of words written on the page. Maybe stone letters will work better…

It turns out that the movie is loosely based on Coffinman: The Memoir of a Buddhist Mortician, by Shinmon Aoki.