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More on LitNet
LitNet is ’n onafhanklike joernaal op die Internet, en word as gesamentlike onderneming deur Ligitprops 3042 BK en Media24 bedryf.

Sampson explores the gritty underbelly of society

Michelle McGrane

Click on the book cover to buy!

Now You've Gone 'n Killed Me
by Lin Sampson
Oshun
August 2005
ISBN 1-77007-049-4
192 pages
R109.95

Now You've Gone 'n Killed Me is a selection of newspaper and magazine articles written by journalist Lin Sampson over a period of twenty-three years, encompassing a wide range of personal experience. Ms Sampson is no run-of-the-mill journo. In fact, there seems to be little that is ordinary about her. She is a woman with a highly original mind and that most endangered of qualities, a sense of humour.

In his foreword to Sampson's book, which is sub-titled "True stories of crime, passion and ballroom dancing", author Rian Malan writes, "If she lived in New York or London, Lin would be famous. She would be on TV all the time, uttering scandalous gossip and butchering reputations with scorching one-liners. Her bon mots would be legendary."

The stories are collated in three sections under the headings "In Person", "Scenes from a Life" and "Into the Dark". "In Person" engages with an eclectic cast of characters: an underworld photographer, the famous artist Tretchikoff, a below-the-line lawyer, an aristocrat, the smallest lady in the world, a couple defined by their designer clothing and a man who killed himself because he was bored. Sampson has a talent for bringing her subjects vividly alive, deftly proving that more often than not, truth is stranger than fiction.

In the title story, "Now You've Gone 'n Killed Me", she writes about "the strange life and bloody death of Billy Monk, smalltime crook and drifter, whose rowdy exterior hid a subtle eye for photography". Monk, "a hangover of the 1960s", was shot with a .22 while protecting a friend in a tacky argument over moving furniture. He died in a house with "turquoise-blue walls and a bar with a glitter top that had lost its shine from too many elbows sliding along the top". The author pays attention to the smallest details; nothing escapes her penetrating sight.

Sampson has an innate sense of adventure and a propensity to seek out and explore fringe elements along the gritty underbelly of society. In "Scenes From A Life" she flouts convention and takes to the streets for cash, picks up hitchhikers, loiters around Jo'burg railway station hoping to get picked up, and checks out a petrol station called Goofballs, Cape Town's trendiest place before dawn. She is whisked onto the dance floor by a middle-aged woman at a gat party and interviews a dominatrix wearing a "skirt as brief as a haiku" in "The pain principle".

In the last, most unsettling section, "Into the Dark", Sampson unmasks the chilling deceptions of love and unravels family lives as she focuses on stories about some of South Africa's most notorious murderers and their victims. With daring curiosity and remarkable psychological insight into human nature, she shines a bright torch into the darkest corners of our psyche.

Her writing is informed by a profoundly humane vision of the world and the quotes she uses to provide elucidation are perfectly fitting. In "Monday, bloody Monday", a report on the heinous Sizzlers massacre in Cape Town, she observes: "If we can learn anything it is that, to quote T S Eliot's Murder in the Cathedral, 'The lords of hell are here' - and any day now they may come marching up our garden paths. What will we do then? Then it will be too late."

The stories in Now You've Gone 'n Killed Me have previously been published in The Sunday Times, Mail & Guardian, Style, Elle, Femina, Red Magazine, Food Illustrated, Fair Lady and Cosmopolitan. Pictures by photographers Mark Lewis, Jac de Villiers, Ruvan Boshoff and Terry Shean accompany some of the articles.

Ms Sampson's writing flows effortlessly and she is strongly present in every piece, although, like a chameleon, her style ranges from disarmingly conversational, sharply witty and mischievous to compassionate and poignant. Her writing contains both a great luminosity and an undeniable toughness.

Now You've Gone 'n Killed Me is a collection of innovative and beautifully crafted articles imbued with unexpected glimpses of our everyday world. Oscar Wilde pronounced, "The true mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible." While we may dream and read about far-off places and foreign people, Lin Sampson awakens us to the mysteries right under our noses. She illuminates the world with her unique combination of elegant artistry and chutzpah.

* * *

Lin Sampson writes regularly for the Sunday Times LifeStyle magazine. She has also written for the London Sunday Times, Tatler, Harper's & Queen, Spectator, Telegraph, Guardian, Fair Lady, Style and Femina.




LitNet: 20 September 2005

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