DUET by Webster Booth and Anne Ziegler.

I added the following review of Duet to Jean Collen’s site this morning. The link to her bookstore is: JEAN COLLEN’S BOOKSTORE


Duet, the autobiography of famous British duettists, Webster Booth and Anne Ziegler, was originally published by Stanley Paul in 1951. Sixty-five years later Jean Collen has digitised the book and made it available as a paperback, epub and pdf book. She gives her sincere thanks to John Marwood who proofread the book most painstakingly. Webster and Anne tell the exciting story of their rise to fame, and their sensational romance. After Webster’s divorce from Paddy Prior, his second wife, he and Anne married and became the most popular duettists of their day, earning them the deserved title of Sweethearts of Song.
By Fiona Compton
May 31, 2016
I read this book many years ago and am delighted that it has been digitised and once again available to those who are interested in reading about the illustrious careers of tenor Webster Booth and soprano Anne Ziegler. Although the book was written by a ghost-writer, the tone of the alternate chapters written in turn by Anne and Webster captures the personalities of both writers – Webster’s writing is more measured and thoughtful than Anne’s enthusiastic, spontaneous writing. Webster Booth had one of the finest British tenor voices of the twentieth century and had a distinguished career in oratorio and recording in his own right. Anne Ziegler had a pleasant light soprano voice and a charming personality, but she was never in the same vocal class as her husband. This book is entitled “Duet”, so the emphasis of the book is on the work the couple did together as duettists on the concert and variety stage. I thoroughly enjoyed the book but I would have liked to have heard more about Webster’s distinguished solo singing career. No doubt this book was responsible for giving people the idea that Webster was merely a romantic duettist in partnership with his wife, doing nothing more than singing light songs together with her. Despite this reservation, the book moves at lightning pace and is most enjoyable. I recommend it highly. 
The digitised book has been published as a paperback and as an e-book (epub). Links below:


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I CAN’T FORGET YOU – Fiona Compton’s first novel.

This book was Fiona Compton’s first novel. She wrote it many years ago and put it away in a drawer. Comparatively recently she took it out and revised it.  A taster from the prologue of the book appears below.

Fiona Compton's first novel
Fiona Compton’s first novel

This review was submitted by language practitioner PEARL HARRIS when the book was first published:

Aug 21, 2010

Once I started reading Fiona Compton’s romantic novel, I could not put it down. I soon became involved in the emotions and events of the main characters’ lives. Derek Bailey attracts females and trouble wherever he goes, due to his charisma and talent. How the women in his life deal with subsequent events must touch a chord in the heart of every female reader who has ever fallen prey to the charms of a philanderer. The writing style is flowing and the dialogue authentic. Place descriptions set the scene firmly in 20th-century Britain. I particularly enjoyed the Scottish dialect (the author having been born in Scotland, this too is genuine!)and the descriptions of daily life in London. This is no run-of-the-mill romantic novel. Due to the author’s musical knowledge, “I can’t forget you” has a depth and authenticity lacking in most novels of this genre. You will not want to put this book down before discovering what the final outcome of the hero’s romantic entanglements is to be.




“The guest in Musical Memories tonight is the distinguished tenor, Derek Bailey, who celebrates his seventieth birthday today. Join Michael Broadstairs in conversation with Derek Bailey at 8.30 this evening.”

The television set was the focal point of the tiny sitting room of the modest terrace house in South Lambeth. It stood at an angle in the corner of the room with the armchairs and couch of the old-fashioned maroon lounge suite facing towards it. The only other item in the room was a large veneer cocktail cabinet, which had been George Pratt’s proudest and most utilised possession when he was alive. He had died five years earlier, and the two remaining occupants of the little house had little use for it except as a handy receptacle for the odds and ends they brought into the room to keep themselves comfortable and well fed while they watched television.

Although it was springtime, the atmosphere was redolent with the mingled odours of fish and vinegar, more in keeping with a cold winter’s night than a pleasant spring evening. The elderly occupants were settled deep in their armchairs eating from TV trays.

Mrs Pratt, George’s widow, uttered an exclamation at the announcement. She turned eagerly to her younger sister, expecting her to react to the words in some way, but judging by the remote expression on Elspeth McPhail’s face, she doubted whether Elspeth had even heard the announcement. Her sister was eating her fish and chips slowly, staring at the television screen without registering any visible emotion.

“Did you hear that, El?” asked Mrs Pratt. “I thought he had died years ago. To think we’ll be seeing your old flame after all these years.”

Mary Pratt was surprised that Elspeth McPhail only smiled faintly in response. Mary thought it would be interesting to see Elspeth’s old boss again after nearly forty years, yet she doubted whether she would have the patience to listen to him blathering away about the technicalities of singing for the full half-hour. But it might cheer Elspeth up to see him and they could always switch over to the variety show if Derek Bailey’s interview proved too dull for them.

“You were a bonny girl and could have had any man you pleased, but after Derek Bailey married that singer Helen Dean, the sparkle seemed to go out of you.”

“I don’t want to talk about Derek Bailey,” Miss McPhail retorted irritably. “Let’s just enjoy the telly while we eat our tea.”

Somewhat disappointed at Elspeth’s calm demeanour in the light of the significant announcement on the TV, Mary Pratt fell silent and settled down again to watch her favourite soapie. After a bleak day doing her share of cleaning and cooking in the small house, she was only too pleased to immerse herself in Coronation Street where everybody led such eventful lives compared to their own dull lives, and even the most casual conversations proved to be of the deepest significance to the development of the plot. Periodically she glanced at Elspeth, but still her sister gave no outward hint of her feelings as she continued to stare impassively at the flickering television screen.

Mary could not help remembering that she herself had been responsible for curtailing Elspeth’s relationship with Derek Bailey. She had never told her sister that several years after his shot-gun marriage to Helen Dean, Derek Bailey had arrived at this very house in a distraught state, begging Mary to tell him how he could find Elspeth. She had sent him away, claiming that her sister was on the point of marrying someone else and refused to give Derek Bailey her address. At the time she thought she was acting in Elspeth’s best interests and that she would eventually marry Archie Taggart and forget all about Derek, but here she was, after a life time spent in domestic service, still unmarried with only distant memories of the halcyon days she had spent with Derek Bailey to sustain her.

Elspeth resented retirement. After forty years as housekeeper to a variety of employers, she found enforced inactivity dull. Her interests, once so varied, had been whittled down to occasional trips to the local library and mindless nights of fish and chips eaten on a tray in front of the telly. It was only when she was alone in her small bedroom that she was free to remember the exciting days when she had been ecstatically happy with Derek and had lived her life to the full.

Tonight, despite her outward calm in front of Mary, her long-term lethargy had indeed been dispelled. At the mention of her old employer’s name, her fingertips had tingled as long-forgotten emotions and memories, too deep-seated and intimate ever to share with her garrulous sister, resurfaced.

Derek Bailey had been Elspeth’s first employer shortly after she arrived from Scotland as a raw and ignorant young girl. He was making his name as a singer when she became his housekeeper, and after she left his employ, his glowing reference had ensured that she became housekeeper to a succession of other famous and sometimes titled people. But although the conditions of her employment and salary improved with every move she made, none of her subsequent employers ever made the profound impression on her life as Derek Bailey himself had done.

She had never stopped thinking of Derek for the rest of her life, nor had she found another man to match him, although she had received a few offers of marriage in her time. In the years of Derek Bailey’s success, she had listened to his broadcasts, collected his records and kept scrapbooks of cuttings about his performances and his colourful personal life. When she managed to save some extra money she had even attended some of his concerts and had felt proud that his performances were received with such enthusiasm. But over the last ten years, there had been fewer broadcasts, concerts, or newspaper cuttings to give her staid life the occasional frisson of excitement.

She had heard so little about him lately that she often wondered whether he was still alive and in good health. Her sister asked her why she took the Daily Telegraph. It seemed like a highfalutin newspaper for plain people like them. Elspeth justified buying the paper, citing that it was well-written with excellent political and arts coverage. She even whiled away her spare time trying her hand at the daily crossword. But she refused to admit to her sister that the real reason she took the paper was because of its extensive obituary page. If anything happened to Derek, she trusted the Daily Telegraph to let her know at once and to write a fitting tribute to him.

She would watch Musical Memories tonight. If she chose to do so, she could share with the world a number of non-musical memories concerning Derek Bailey, but so far she had never confided them to anyone, not even to her own sister. Nobody was ever likely to hear of the bond which had once existed between Elspeth McPhail, now a sixty-two year old working-class spinster, and Derek Bailey, celebrated tenor.

The intrigues of the folk in Coronation Street were lost to her that night as she thought of the intrigue of forty years before which had coloured her life for all time.


Linda Bailey regarded herself in her dressing-table mirror with well-founded satisfaction. She had been to her hairdresser that afternoon for a rinse and set. The light auburn colour of her hair suited her pale complexion and complemented her deep green eyes. She was wearing her low-cut, figure-hugging aquamarine evening dress and the ruby necklace and earrings Derek had given her as a present for a distant wedding anniversary. She anticipated the comments of the women at the party to be held in Derek’s honour after the interview.

“The old girl must be sixty if she’s a day, but doesn’t she still look marvellous?  She could easily pass for thirty-five – in the right light!”

Linda looked forward to being the centre of attraction again, fêted by eminent theatrical and musical people because she was Derek’s wife. Derek had retired from the Kings Opera company some years earlier to become a celebrated teacher of singing at one of the music colleges, but his dry academic colleagues bored her in comparison to the flamboyant theatrical and musical colleagues she had known while he was still performing. It horrified her to realise that almost two generations knew Derek only from an occasional lecture-recital, the old seventy-eights and the few long-playing records he had made towards the end of his singing career.

On rare occasions when the BBC risked its recording equipment to play one of his records, there was usually a cautionary preface, “Now for one of our historical recordings by veteran tenor, Derek Bailey. Please excuse the scratchy surface…”

Linda tried to console herself with the fact that the veteran had worn very well and was still handsome and charming enough to turn a number of greying heads and, more worryingly for Linda, a few blonde, brunette and auburn heads also. She always made a determined effort to laugh off his flirtations with the legion of young women who were invariably flattered by the light-hearted attentions of a famous man.

She told friends airily that he had a predilection for young girls, aged eighteen to twenty-five, as though it was all a great joke, but it had amazed her that recently he had the gumption to expand one of these flirtations into a serious and long-lasting affair. It seemed she had managed to persuade Derek to end that ludicrous fiasco. He was going to see the little bitch for the last time tomorrow to let her know their affair was at an end, once and for all. At least, that is what Derek told her he would do but she was not sure whether she could believe him. But then, he had little reason to be entirely confident of her lasting fidelity and honesty either.

She turned to him. He was sitting in a fat armchair, sipping a small whisky. These days he preferred to spend the evenings at home reading an entertaining novel, rather than face the drive through busy London streets, but the invitation to appear on Musical Memories had been too intriguing to turn down.

He rose reluctantly with only the merest suggestion of creakiness, and glanced briefly at himself in his wife’s mirror. His evening suit was nearly twenty-five years old, but skilful alterations allowed it to hang as stylishly on him as it had ever done.

“Nobody will believe you’re a day over sixty, darling,” smiled Linda, reading his thoughts. “Not a bad looking pair for our ages, are we? We’ve been through some torrid times lately, but we are going to be happy now, aren’t we? Our marriage hasn’t been a complete disaster?”

Derek Bailey met his wife’s scrutinising gaze and made an effort to keep the doubt from reflecting in his sad dark eyes.

“You’re beginning to sound like a publicity handout, darling,” he said lightly. “Now then, are you ready? We’d better be off sharp otherwise there’ll be no memories, musical or otherwise tonight.”

As he put the ignition key into the Jaguar, he suddenly remembered that he had promised he would try to phone Jane before the broadcast. He had no trouble visualising her, seated on that little stool beside the telephone of the flat in Earls Court Square, eating her heart out because he had not rung her as he had promised. If he lived to be a hundred, he would never understand why Jane cared about him as she did. No matter how famous he had once been, he was only a tired old man who was finding it increasingly draining on his emotions to maintain their clandestine relationship. He was dreading tomorrow when he had promised Linda he would see Jane for the last time. Jane had asked little of him over the five years of their intense affair, but he knew she still cared for him deeply. Yet, since his return from Australia, he had sensed a subtle change in her, almost as if she were expecting their relationship to flounder but didn’t know how to rescue it.

He tried to shut thoughts of her out of his mind as he glanced at Linda. He had swept his entire life aside in his determination to marry her, caring nothing about the bad publicity he had received when he and Helen divorced shortly before the war, at a time when divorce was more difficult to obtain and caused more scandal than it would do today.

He could not even claim that Linda had been the love of his life. After Elspeth, no other woman had managed to stir the same depth of feeling in him. Certainly Linda had been a beautiful and charming young girl, but even before the divorce from Helen was final, his initial enchantment with her had already faded. He would have preferred to have held on to his hard won freedom and devote himself to his work without being tied down in another marriage, but he had felt obliged to marry Linda because of the scandal she and her family had endured during the divorce proceedings. But now the passage of time had dimmed the public’s memory of their shocking liaison, and their long marriage was generally considered to be a happy, fairy-tale confection.

Jane had never expected him to go through another publicity-laden divorce for her sake. He had made it clear from the beginning of their affair that he could never divorce Linda. He owed it to her to stay with her in their old age.

They had arrived at TV Centre. Derek braced himself for their entrance, and with a genial expression on his face he and Linda entered the foyer, arm in arm, the epitome of public happiness and graciousness. Michael Broadstairs was waiting for them. Usually he sent his assistant down to collect his guests, but Derek was one of his oldest friends from their early days in London.

“Marvellous to see you both,” he was saying, “You look younger every day, Linda, my dear.”

Linda basked in the warmth of Michael’s compliment and drew her soft wrap closer to her, flashing her charming smile at Michael, enveloping him in the glow of her outwardly warm personality. At that moment she felt confident in the lasting devotion of her husband. She had recovered from the shock of Derek’s five-year affair with a plain unassuming girl forty years his junior whom she would not have noticed at a dinner party, far less in a crowd.


Jane Walters was not really listening to what her mother was saying on the telephone. She kept glancing at her watch anxiously, wondering how she could stem the constant flow of Mrs Walters’ inconsequential chatter.

“..So Dad’s off to Kettering tomorrow to see whether Brownings will put the new clothing agency in his hands.”

Jane listened distractedly.

“It will mean the world to us if he gets this, Jane. You have no idea what a struggle it is trying to keep up appearances on Dad’s present commission. I sometimes wonder how we’ll manage to live when he retires. He hasn’t put enough away for us to be really comfortable in our old age.”

“Mum,” cried Jane desperately. “I have to go now. I’m expecting such an important call. I’ll phone you tomorrow, I promise.”

“Why is this call so important to you, Jane?” her mother asked idly, making Jane feel even more frantic as her mother launched into another trivial homily. “Has your agent another engagement for you? It amazes me how people can even afford to attend concerts at today’s prices. Dad and I can only manage to one if you are kind enough to give us complimentary tickets and, to be really honest, some of that modern music bores us stiff and Dad is inclined to nod off and snore – so embarrassing – but beggars like us can’t …”

“Yes, Mum, I know. Look after yourself and give Dad my love. Goodbye.”

Even as she replaced the telephone, she could hear her mother’s voice rambling on unabated. She would be hurt and accuse Jane of cutting her off. She knew she should have granted her mother her customary half-hour of chatter about inflation, the parlous state of the country and the St Albans social scene, but she was desperate to have the phone free in case Derek should have a spare moment by himself to phone before the television interview.

Dejectedly she slumped into her favourite easy chair in front of the television. She had turned the sound down in the vain hope that Derek might yet telephone, although she was beginning to doubt whether he would now, only half an hour before the live TV show was due to commence. Perhaps he’d been trying to call her while her mother hogged the line or perhaps Linda was all over him and he couldn’t find a moment to himself.

She could hear his voice offering the usual excuse for breaking this or that promise.

“It’s so difficult at times, darling. Linda is always with me when I’m at home.”

Jane often asked herself what on earth he and Linda found to do all the time they were together if he had really not slept with her for the last five years. She remembered an occasion when she and Derek were together in the flat after one of his prolonged holidays with Linda, nearly three years ago. She had been weeping foolishly because she saw so little of him, knowing even as she wept, that he hated tears and if she wept too often she might eventually drive him away. It was his wife’s prerogative to weep and nag. Jane, the mistress, was supposed to be cheerful, loving and light-hearted, unperturbed by broken promises, always understanding him when his wife failed to do so.

“You don’t think I actually sleep with her?” he had asked, outraged. “I haven’t been to bed with her for years. She’d wonder what the hell I was doing if I tried anything on like that! We don’t even share a bedroom.”

“But you say she loves you, that you can’t leave her…” Jane had trailed off hopelessly.

He had not answered. He didn’t want to get involved in a discussion about whether or not he could leave Linda. Instead, he drew Jane into his arms and made love to her for the second time that day with all the energy of a younger man and the deference and gentleness of an older one, willing her to forget her desolation at his departures and the futile existence she led without him as she lived in anticipation for the few stolen moments they could spend together.

While everyone insisted nowadays that marriage was not important, that girls could do as they pleased, Jane was beginning to feel she was missing out on one of life’s major experiences. All her friends were married with young children now, and although they thought she remained single because of her successful musical career as an accompanist, they persisted in arranging meetings with ghastly men who had nothing to recommend them except their bachelor status. Derek, on the other hand, was perfect in every way, but attached and therefore ultimately unattainable. Derek had driven the need for secrecy at her from all sides.

“Don’t trust anyone but yourself, darling,” he would say. “You only have to tell one person and before you know where you are everyone will hear about it, and if word gets back to Linda she would kill us both.”

She wished she could be honest with her friends, even if they thought it peculiar, even disgusting, for her to be involved with a married man older than her own father. She had not dared to tell Derek that she had confided in her closest friend, Louisa. Jane looked forward to visiting Louisa, knowing she could trust her not to gossip about the affair, or condemn her as a two-timing slag. Jane knew that it was Derek who had everything on his side: a pretty, discreet young woman, who adored him, was available at the shortest notice, and made no demands on him to leave his wife. She had entered the relationship knowing that he would never break up his marriage. In the heady days of their blossoming love, it had been enough just to be with him when he had the time to spare. She worshipped the ground he walked on, but as she grew older she wanted something more lasting than an affair, which, in the end, would have no meaning in the grand scheme of things. With a start she saw Derek appear on the television screen and jumped up from her chair to turn the volume up once again. She could not bear to miss a moment of the programme. “I have pleasure in introducing the celebrated tenor, Derek Bailey in our series Musical Memories, Michael Broadstairs was saying. “Hello, Michael,” Derek replied, “How very kind of you to invite me on to your programme tonight. It has been such ages since last we met…”

She heard his first few words in that beautifully modulated voice she knew so intimately. She reflected on the five years she had spent with him, and marvelled, with just a tinge of bitterness, at how much futile joy she had crammed into her life in that time.

The three women of the past and present who had shared various parts of Derek Bailey’s life and moulded in different ways, felt quickening heartbeats at the sound of his voice which had altered little with the passing years. His recording of Questa e Quella from Rigoletto in English was playing in the background:

Though with one girl I was happy this morning,

Yet tomorrow, yet tomorrow, another I’ll find.


This book is available as a paperback and as  an epub epub. Look at Fiona’s Store for more information.




REVIEWS posted when the book was first published.

By mjpotenza 2011
Any fan of short stories will enjoy this selection of entertaining tales by Fiona Compton. The
author presents women’s viewpoints, emotions, and experiences accurately and
uniquely. The women characters are interesting, complex, and sympathetic (the
men are mostly cads). One wonders how much is autobiographical. The writing is
descriptive and precise. The style flows nicely, making for easy and pleasant
reading. The Wedding Singer, Miss Stratton Disappears, and The
Sunset Gleams
, to name a few, all have the right combination of humour and
sadness. In short, these well written stories are very enjoyable.

By Pearl Harris (language practitioner)

Each short story in this collection is refreshingly different and will touch
a chord in the heart of most female readers. All the characters are masterfully
and realistically portrayed. Many of the incidents depicted are those which
affect all women at various times in their lives and with which the reader can
readily empathise. Some bring a chuckle and a feeling of optimism, others a
feeling of sadness. All left a lasting impression on me. Fiona Compton’s voice is
a charming mix, evidence of her Scottish, South African and musical roots.
These stories particularly appeal to me as an expatriate South African, as many
of them richly evoke the South African lifestyle. However, all are timeless in
their own right and certainly worth reading by both women and men, whatever
their nationality. 

TASTER – A few pages of The Song is Ended

 It was a beautiful spring day in the northern suburbs of Johannesburg. Heather Munroe felt happier than she had done for a very long time. Ian, her husband of thirty years, had woken in a cheerful mood and taken their two little dogs for a walk at nearby Zoo Lake before lunch.
“It’s a wonderful day, isn’t it, darling?” he said as he negotiated the exuberant Buster and Benny into the back of the car. “Thank goodness we don’t have to be in the studio until later. Why don’t we have a picnic lunch in the garden for a change and make the most of this gorgeous weather?”
He kissed her lightly on the forehead and drove off on the short trip to Zoo Lake where the dogs could romp free round the water.
Although Ian’s dark hair was receding and tinged with grey, and his expressive face slightly haggard, he remained a commanding figure despite his genial personality. He had accepted his gift of an outstanding voice, which had given him a successful career, without assuming it made him superior in any other way.
After he left, Heather went to her bedroom to tie back her thick auburn hair with an aquamarine ribbon, which perfectly matched her eyes, and returned to the kitchen to prepare the picnic lunch, humming softly.
Heather and Ian spent most of their time together in their Sandton studio, where she taught piano, and accompanied Ian’s singing pupils, just as she had accompanied Ian himself, when he was singing professionally here and in Europe.
Heather had recently been to the Grahamstown Arts Festival to accompany another singer. Their student, Janet Tabraham, had played for Ian in the studio, as she had done a number of times before. She was a hard-working, serious girl in her late teens, preparing for her piano and singing diplomas, hoping to make a career in  music. They had been delighted when they discovered how well she could play. Heather
had no qualms about asking her to play for Ian when she was away.
“It will boost her confidence and be a wonderful opportunity for her to learn how to teach singing,” Heather told Mrs Tabraham. “Don’t worry about her, Margaret. Ian will look after her.”
Janet had started singing and piano lessons with them as a guileless sixteen-year-old, still at school. The only child of elderly parents, she had led a protected innocent life. The nearest thing to the high life for Janet was the Young People’s Guild at the Church hall on a Friday night, and singing alto in the school choir.
Heather doubted if Janet had ever had a serious boyfriend, although she was an attractive, dark-eyed girl, quiet and unassuming. They had given her a spare key to their studio so she could go in and practise in peace when they were not working there.
Heather chopped up the salad ingredients, thinking about her husband. For a while he had been restless, grumpy and out of sorts, but unwilling to offer any explanation for his misery. He would often fall into bed in the middle of the night, after consuming half a bottle of whatever had taken his fancy in their cocktail cabinet the night before.
She wondered if he was having another of his little flings and feeling guilty about it, despite the novelty of a fresh liaison. After the last one he had sworn he would behave in future, but she hadn’t taken him seriously. She had heard the same contrite promises before. He was sixty now: surely pretty girls in the eighteen to twenty-five age group, for whom he had a weakness, would look on him as a father figure rather than a lover. “Dirty old man”, might spring to their lips if he tried it on with one of them these days. She knew that the long line of girls, with whom he had amused himself over the years, were his little flaw, like gambling, or drinking, which might soon become his second little flaw if he were not very careful.
After his grumpy spell and over-indulgence in spirits, Heather had been surprised, relieved, and even rather thrilled, when last night he made do with two gins and made love to her almost like he used to do in the early heady days of their long relationship. Despite his perennial unfaithfulness, she knew he had no inclination to end his marriage for he always returned to her after a meaningless affair.
Despite Heather’s annoyance at his numerous flings, she did not want to end their marriage either. They had a successful and lucrative concert career, and now that Ian was nearing the end of his singing days, they were running a flourishing music studio together. Their musical partnership was as perfect as it had been the day she had first played for him at a concert in London over thirty years earlier. She still loved him, regardless of his foolhardiness with young girls. Each one had faded away, suffering the ignominy of being unceremoniously dropped, but she, Heather, remained a constant in his life. She knew he would never leave her.
                Ian let the dogs off their leads to run free round the lake. He followed them at a slower pace. Zoo Lake was quiet this morning, although there were remnants of the revelry that had taken place at the weekend. Beer cans, empty chip and sweet packets, some floating in the lake, spoilt the illusion of being in the country rather than in the middle of a big city. Ian could see the white clad figures of the bowlers at the nearby bowling club. He could even hear the applause and the exclamations of pleasure when someone placed their bowl in a good position.
He thought about last night with Heather and felt rather ashamed of himself. He had been having a few drinks and thinking about his relationship with Janet – he could hardly call it an affair – yet. Unlike the young women and girls with whom he had previous affairs, this one was an innocent, a virgin. At sixty years of age he would be wicked to take away her innocence, although she was now at the stage where she
really wanted him to do so. She was so entirely devoted to him that he was frightened where it would all end. As end it eventually must…
The book is available as a paperback and as an ebook (epub) at: Fiona’s Store


Book reviews

I have been reading The
Noel Coward Diaries
edited by Graham Payn and Sheridan Morley  (1982) and am nearly
at the end of this large volume of over 650 pages. The diaries extend from 1941
(several years before my birth) to 1969 when Noel Coward was about to be knighted.
                                                         Cole Lesley and Noel Coward.
I found this a fascinating book which gave a clear view into
Noel Coward’s busy and successful life. I dare say that he might have had a
fair inkling that these diaries would be published after his death, but despite
this, he did not pull any punches in what he said about people he met;  plays, films, concerts and operas he attended;
and books he read.
He was a hard worker. He took roles in films and plays,
performed in cabaret, and was always busy writing a new play or novel. He
travelled extensively, and although he had many famous friends in theatre and royal
circles, his inner circle of intimate friends was small and he remained loyal
to them throughout his life – Cole Lesley, Graham Payne and Lorn Lorraine. The last-mentioned was his secretary and manager from 1924 until her death.
By the time his diary reached the nineteen-sixties his
health was deteriorating. He was sad that Graham Payn was not making a success
of his stage career and wrote a touching entry about Graham on 24 November
1966, “He has a loving and loyal heart and no future anywhere but with me… ”
I saw Noel Coward in his last West End performance in 1966 –
Shadows of the Evening and Come into the Garden, Maud at the Queen’s
Theatre. His co-stars were Irene Worth and Lilli Palmer. Apparently Irene Worth
could do no wrong, while Lilli Palmer presented him with numerous irritating problems
during the run of the play. I will always remember seeing a chaffeur-driven
Rolls Royce arriving at the stage door to fetch Noel Coward after his
performance. He waved graciously at the hoi
as the car drove off.
Noel Coward died in 1973. On the day of his death, British
tenor, Webster Booth was in East London directing The Mikado. He and I were having tea and cream scones at Marina
Glen  that afternoon and spoke of him.


I recommend this book to anyone interested in the inner
workings of the theatre. Noel Coward’s diary is beautifully written and gives
fascinating insights into the theatre,  the critics, and the vagaries of a number of
famous performers, by a multi-talented performer, writer and composer who certainly
deserved the title of The Master.
Fiona Compton.
17 December 2015.

The MALCOLM CRAIG series – Roman à clef, biographical-autobiographical novel

The Malcolm Craig Series – Roman à clef, biographical-autobiographical novel

 5 December 2015 at 14:10

The Malcolm Craig series of 4 novels is a mixture of a Roman à clef, and a biographical-autobiographical novel.

Such a novel is described as a novel about real life, overlaid with a façade of fiction.

A few examples of such novels include:

  • Glenarvon (1816) by Lady Caroline Lamb chronicles her affair with Lord Byron (thinly disguised as the title character).

  • Queenie (1985) by Michael Korda, nephew of Alexander Korda and the actress Merle Oberon. In the novel, Queenie Kelley, a girl of Indian and Irish descent, is based on Oberon, who went to great lengths to disguise her mixed-race background.

  Ann Veronica (1909) by H. G. Wells is based in the real relationship between H. G. Wells and Amber Reeves

  • The Moon and Sixpence (1919) by W. Somerset Maugham follows the life of Paul Gauguin, especially his time in Tahiti

Sons and Lovers (1911) by D.H Lawrence must surely be considered a novel in this form.


Writers have chosen to write this form of the novel or play for various reasons including satire, controversial topics, turning the tale the way the author would have liked it to have gone, or writing about oneself or others without disclosing the names of the real people involved. As a novel is supposed to be fiction rather than fact, elements of fiction and fact intermingle in a way that would be unacceptable in a work of non-fiction where the reader assumes that the writer has done proper research into the subject of the biography and that facts could be substantiated.

The four novels in the Malcolm Craig series are broadly based on fact, but many incidents are purely products of my imagination and do not pretend to be the truth. The last two books, in particular, are largely based on my own private experiences which I have recreated as fiction thanks to my memory, contemporary diaries, and a fair share of imagination.

Using this form gave me the opportunity to write about people I knew very well indeed and who had a profound and lasting influence on my life. The first two novels are based on my knowledge and research into their lives before I met them; the last two novels are based on my relationship with them. Needless to say, the character of Kate Kyle is based on me in the final two books.

While I treasure my association with Malcolm Craig and Marina Dunbar, telling the story truthfully in its entirety would be a mere recitation of events as they occurred.  Because this series is fiction overlaid with fact, the very last part of the last volume is pure fiction –  the way I would have liked the story to end, rather than the way it did.

 The four volumes in The Malcolm Craig series are available as paperbacks and as  epub ebooks:  Fiona’s Store – Fiction with a Musical Theme

Fiona Compton Updated on 28 November 2018. Fiona Compton


I completed writing A Song For You and Me during the NaNoWriMo month of November 2015.This is the final novel in the Malcolm Craig series. It is available as a paperback print and an Epub.

Paperback: A Song for You and Me


Epub: A Song for You and Me


I have finished reading the final novel in the Malcolm Craig series and it held my interest as much as the three earlier books, perhaps even a little more than the previous books as the final novel reaches a conclusion to the tale.

Like the Christmas Special which concluded the long-running Downton Abbey, the end of Fiona Compton’s novel reaches a satisfactory resolution.The finale of the series is merely implied, rather than described in graphic detail and one is left to imagine what happens to Malcolm, Kate, and Marina in the years that follow.

Somehow I doubt whether the end of the series is the way the tale ended in reality, but perhaps that is why Fiona Compton chose to present it as a work of fiction rather than fact.

Jean Collen – 14 January 2016.


Pearl Harris's review
Pearl Harris is a highly-respected freelance writer, editor, proofreader and translator who lives and works in the Czech Republic. Her website is: Pearl Harris



A random sample from the book:


I was rather surprised when Steve Baxter phoned to ask me if I would
be a guest on his radio programme in a few day’s time. Considering how devoted he was to Helen and how studiously he had avoided me since our affair and our ill-fated holiday together the year before, I was amazed that Helen had allowed him to ask me to do such an interview.
 “Do you think that is a good idea, considering our history, Steve?” I asked.
 “I know it might be rather uncomfortable for us, Marina, but this isn’t my idea. My boss was quite insistent about it and I could hardly refuse without causing unpleasantness. Please, Marina – we’re both professionals. I’m sure we can handle this without any discomfort, can’t we? You might bring in one of Malcolm’s recordings to play on the programme. There wouldn’t be any doubt that you are both committed
to your marriage, just as I am committed to my marriage with Helen. After all, the programme only lasts for fifteen minutes.”
“I had better ask Malcolm first, Steve. He might not approve. I’ll
phone you tonight after I’ve spoken to him.”
As I expected, Malcolm didn’t care one way or the other whether I
did the interview or not.
 “It’s entirely up to you, Marina,” he said coldly. “I still think it’s a shame that you didn’t run off with Steve Baxter when you had the chance. We might all be feeling much happier by now if you had.”
 “By all, I suppose you are including Katie,” I replied. “Why do you have to be so mean to me all the time, Malcolm?”
“I’m not being mean, just stating the exact truth. Go and do the
interview with him. You don’t need my permission to do that or any other damned thing you please.”
“So you wouldn’t care if I decided to have an affair with someone
else?” I asked.
“Why should I? Have you someone else in mind?”
“You might be surprised to hear that I do have someone in mind,
someone who treats me far better than you do.”
“Well go ahead and enjoy yourself. See if I care.”
He marched out of the room leaving me feeling quite miserable, but
angry at the same time. I picked up the telephone. It was Helen who answered in obsequious tones, “The Baxter residence,” she simpered.
“Is Steve there?” I asked without any preliminary greeting.
“Who shall I say is calling?” she asked – as though she didn’t know!
“Marina Dunbar,” I replied coldly. “I would have thought you might
have recognised my voice, Helen.”
She didn’t answer but I heard her calling Steve in thin tones.
“Phone for you, darling…”
 “Malcolm has agreed that I can do the interview,” I told him. “What time do you want me at the studios?”
Surprisingly the interview went better than I expected it to. We
chatted about this and that and ended the interview with Malcolm’s recording of One Day When We were Young. “Thank you, darling,” I said in sugary tones when it finished. I was surprised at how I could put on such an act when I was feeling entirely fed up with my unsatisfactory life.
The only person who was cheering me up these days was our singing
pupil, Brandon Black, who thought the world of me and was willing to do
anything possible to please me. In a way he reminded me of Harry, although there was no question of going to bed with him at this stage. I was twelve years older than him, and although I knew he thought the world of me for the moment it was better to be good friends without the complications a sexual relationship usually brings.
I returned to the studio immediately after the broadcast. Malcolm
was having a rest before the next pupil arrived. There was a faint smell of
perfume in the air over-riding the usual smell of his stale cigarette tobacco.
“Did you listen to my broadcast?” I asked.
“Yes! Very well done,” he said absently.
“Who was in the studio while I was away?” I asked sharply.
“Nobody. What makes you think there was someone here? I had a sandwich and then I had a bit of a rest and listened to your interview.”
I couldn’t be bothered to argue with him. The next pupil was due any
moment and I didn’t want to upset myself by asking if Kate had been in to see him because she knew I would be at the radio studios and had taken any
opportunity to be with him. I let it go, but my suspicions remained.

Fiona Compton 
28 November 2015


Just the Echo of a Sigh, the first novel in the Malcolm Craig series by Fiona Compton.
Just the Echo of a Sigh, the first novel in the Malcolm Craig series by Fiona Compton.

Book available as a paperback and epub digital book at: Fiona’s Store – Fiction with a Musical Theme




“Your tiny hand is frozen; let me warm it into mine…”

Malcolm Craig cast his eyes over the first few rows of the audience in St Mary’s Church Hall.  There were few signs of the latest liberated fashions of the twenties amongst the women in this staid, largely middle-aged crowd. Even most of the young women there were clad in the fashions and sombre colours of the previous decade. Not many flappers, with bobbed hair and close-fitting cloche hats were to be found in this conservative crowd. Many of those in the audience were still mourning the loss of their loved ones who had died in the Great War or had come home physically or mentally maimed. Others had succumbed to the Spanish ‘flu pandemic at the end of the decade. The only vanity the women displayed were cumbersome ornate hats which blocked the view of the stage to those seated behind them.

He was reaching the climax of the aria from La Bohème where his full attention should have been on the delicate high note at the end of the aria, when he caught sight of Felicity at last. She was further back than he had expected, seated demurely between her stern father and her scrawny twittery mother. Her two younger brothers completed the Gregory family party who were present at St Mary’s especially to hear Felicity’s young man singing.

Malcolm was going to London the following week to begin rehearsals for the new season of the touring Kings Opera Company. Despite his outstanding voice, his singing would be confined to the chorus, with only the occasional small role to fulfil, and although he would be given leading parts to understudy it was unlikely that many of the principals would be absent and give him a chance to stand in for them.

He took the last note of the aria in a delicate falsetto, and the audience erupted into cheers for Mr and Mrs Craig’s’ gifted son. He acknowledged the applause gracefully and drew his accompanist, the old Church organist and choirmaster, who had known Malcolm since his early days as a mellifluous boy alto, forward to receive his share of appreciation for the performance. He looked directly at Felicity and was gratified to see that she was applauding wildly. With the lights up, he saw that her face was flushed and her eyes were shining. She was aglow with the unaccustomed excitement of the occasion. All this applause was for her boyfriend who had acquitted himself beyond everyone’s expectations in his first solo recital.

Tea would be served to the audience after the concert, as it was on every occasion. The vicar believed that half the people present came to enjoy the liberal tea rather than because they were really interested in the event itself. Already stalwarts of the Mothers’ Union were gathering in the hall kitchen, competing with the applause as they clattered cups and saucers into position on the long trestle tables. The last thing Malcolm wanted to do after his recital was to make polite conversation with his large family and Felicity and her parents over a cup of weak lukewarm tea and a slice of seed cake. He wanted Felicity all to himself, to hold her tightly in his arms and see her rejoice in his good fortune. But he knew he would have to break the news of his change of career to them before he could relax and enjoy the success of the evening. He joined his parents and his older brothers and sisters, as they waited for tea to be served. Already he was feeling far more nervous about the ordeal to follow than he had been about giving the recital.

“That was wonderful, Malcolm,” said his mother proudly. ‘You’re as good as a real professional singer now. It was so good of you to sing for your old friends at St Mary’s and help the vicar to raise money for the Organ Fund.”

His father growled in agreement and his older sisters and brothers crowded round him, eager to be associated with their talented and attractive young brother, who, at the age of twenty, towered above his parents and siblings.

“Glad you all enjoyed it,” he replied nonchalantly. “But I could certainly do with more than a cup of tea after that lot! I’m exhausted!”

The vicar creaked up the stairs to the hall stage during the tea. He called authoritatively for silence so that he might give his prepared vote of thanks to Malcolm. He announced triumphantly that the Church had raised a considerable amount towards the Organ Fund from the proceeds of the concert. Gloved hands applauded warmly, if mutely, and Malcolm smiled modestly, silently acknowledging the gratitude of the congregation.

Some of Malcolm’s old school mates approached him diffidently. When they were younger they had been his boon companions, cheering themselves hoarse in support of the local football team, but now Malcolm’s burgeoning gift set him apart from them, although he himself had not changed for he had always been able to sing. Since he had begun serving articles in a Birmingham firm of accountants, studying singing in his spare time and singing tenor solos for various choral societies, he had not had time to go to football matches any more. He had also been advised that he could ruin his voice if he cheered on his team with abandon every week.

He reached Felicity at last, relieved to see that her parents were momentarily away from her, doing their duty by mingling with their middle-aged, middle class companions.

“That was beautiful, Malcolm,” Felicity whispered, as he reached for her hand, warm through her glove, quite unlike the tiny hand of his recent aria. “My stomach was turning over with excitement when I listened to you. Were you singing just for me?”

“Always for you, darling,” he replied hoarsely.

Her red hair shone like a bright cap on her well-shaped head. She looked pretty, pert and modern with her new hairstyle, but Malcolm regretted the loss of her unruly curls which she used to pin up with pretty tortoiseshell clasps. On the few occasions they had managed to be alone together he had delighted in freeing her hair from the clasps and running his hands through her shining luxuriant curls as he held her close…

This book is available at Fiona’s Store as a paperback or as an epub ebook.