I have decided to publish volumes 1 and 2 in one book. The book is available as a paper back print and epub. The whole thing could be read as a novel complete in itself. Both novels concern the life and career of famous British tenor. Malcolm Craig, his successful career in Britain, and his three marriages. Read more about all my books at: Fiona Compton’s books.
Dec 22, 2015
I was glad to see these two volumes combined in one book as they could be read as a complete book without reading volumes 3 and 4. Fiona Compton has made no secret of the fact that all 4 volumes in the Malcolm Craig series are combinations of Roman a clef and biographical/autobiographical novels. The first two novels are based on her own research about Malcolm Craig and Marina Dunbar in the years of their illustrious lives and theatrical careers until 1956 before she met them, although parts of these books are pure fiction, while other parts are largely true.
She has succeeded in creating the atmosphere of the early part of the twentieth century, World War Two and the immediate post war years as they relate to Malcolm and Marina’s lives and careers. I recommend this interesting double novel featuring the lively lives and careers of Fiona Compton’s fictional heroes – Malcolm and Marina.
The last two novels in the Malcolm Craig series combined in one book:
Once again, volumes 3 and 4 of the Malcolm Craig series could be read as one novel. Most of it is set in South Africa to where Malcolm Craig and Marina Dunbar move in 1956 after problems with the British Inland Revenue. Their lives have taken a new direction in a new country. Their marriage is no happier than it was for many years in the UK, and Kate Kyle (the fictional name for Fiona Compton herself) now writes her Roman a Clef/autobiographical novel largely from her own experience, although there are still many fictional elements in the story. In many ways, the idea of Kate and Malcolm having an affair when she is in her late teens, and Malcolm is married, and 42 years older than her, might seem like a shocking state of affairs. The story held my interest and the conclusion to the saga is satisfactory (depending on your point of view) although it is possible that Fiona Compton used her imagination rather than fact to reach this conclusion.
I found Love Set to Music most interesting. Neither Kate Kyle nor Malcolm Craig are covered in glory and some might consider their spring/winter relationship unseemly even over fifty years later. They obviously felt deeply for one another and Malcolm Craig’s wife, Marina Dunbar, was not without blame. I sincerely hope that the final novel will reach a satisfactory conclusion otherwise the emotion generated by the affair which changed the life of Kate Kyle/Fiona Compton radically without bringing her lasting happiness would have been a meaningless waste of time.
The final novel in the Malcolm Craig series, A Song for You and Me, held my interest even more than the three earlier books as this 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 although the finale of the Malcolm Craig series is merely implied, rather than described in graphic detail. One is left to imagine what happens to Malcolm, Kate, and Marina in the years that follow.
Somehow I doubt whether the conclusion of this series of novels 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.
This is the third novel in the Malcolm Craig series. Because of tax problems with the United Kingdom Inland Revenue, famous tenor, Malcolm Craig and his wife, Marina Dunbar decide to emigrate to South Africa in 1956. This novel covers the first seven years of their lives in South Africa. Although they are still performing they find that they have to teach singing to make ends meet. Their marriage is still as tempestuous as ever and they are on the brink of divorcing one another. Marina has an affair with a popular radio announcer and Malcolm feels genuinely drawn to his young studio accompanist, Kate Kyle. Kate, in turn, thinks the world of Malcolm despite a huge difference in their ages.
Thanks to Pearl Harris for writing a review of this book:
Review by Jean Collen:
Jan 13, 2016
Fiona Compton has pointed out that the novels in the Malcolm Craig series are partly novels with a key and partly biographical/autobiographical novels. She has written these books under a pen name, presumably because she did not want to write the story as rather sensational fact, but preferred to write it as a mixture of fact interspersed with fiction. Possibly she wrote the Malcolm Craig series in this way so that she would not hurt or embarrass family and friends of the protagonists. I found Love Set to Music most interesting. I imagine that the character of Kate Kyle is Fiona Compton herself, thinly disguised. Neither Kate Kyle nor Malcolm Craig are covered in glory and some might consider their spring/winter relationship unseemly even over fifty years later. They obviously felt deeply for one another and Malcolm Craig’s wife, Marina Dunbar, was not without blame. I look forward to reading the final book in the series and sincerely hope that it will reach a satisfactory conclusion otherwise the emotion generated by the affair which changed the life of Kate Kyle/Fiona Compton radically without bringing her lasting happiness would have been a meaningless waste of time.
Here is a random sample from the book:
Kate – April 1962
After I finished my secretarial course I was working in the cables department of a city bank in Simmonds Street. I was taking lessons in piano and singing and preparing for various exams so I had to get up at the crack of dawn to practise my scales in singing and piano before I went to work. I was exhausted by the end of the day! Liz was on her April school holiday but I was working a five and a half day week in the bank with no sign of any holiday in view. My father had promised that if I did well in the exams he might allow me to leave the bank and study singing and piano full time until I completed my diplomas in both subjects so I was determined to do well no matter how exhausted I was. Becoming a professional musician was far more appealing to me than spending the rest of my life typing out letters and cables in the bank, and working overtime when the Rhodesian Sweep cables arrived and had to be decoded so that the bank could notify all the lucky winners that they had won a lot of money in the sweep.
One day Liz phoned during my lunch hour. She was very excited.
“Malcolm needs a small studio audience for his Edwardian programme tomorrow night and he’s just phoned to ask if I’d like to go. I suppose he’s been in touch with you too, Kate?” she asked.
My heart sank for he hadn’t asked me. I felt a stab of pure jealousy that my friend had been asked to go to the recording and Malcolm hadn’t bothered to ask me.
“No, he hasn’t phoned me,” I replied, barely able to speak for my mouth had dried up completely. “Perhaps he’s not planning on asking me at all.”
Liz was silent for a moment. She had probably assumed that Malcolm would invite me and she must have known that I was feeling very hurt not to have been invited.
“Well, it’s still not too late. Maybe he’ll phone you once you get home,” she said brightly, and then found an excuse to ring off quickly rather than commiserate with me any further. I continued eating the sandwiches my mother had made for my lunch, although I could hardly swallow them because there was a persistent lump in my throat. I did my best to keep a brave face and not let the tears that were welling up in my eyes run down my cheeks.
Marina and I were having a snack lunch in the studio. Eunice always managed to think of something interesting to put in our lunch boxes. As far as I was concerned the lunch break was the best part of our day in the studio. I really was not cut out to teach other people how to sing. I had managed to get out of most of the morning’s lessons by spending time in the office telephoning friends to invite them to the recording the following evening.
“I think I’ve contacted enough people for the recording tomorrow,” I said to Marina.”We don’t want too many in that small studio otherwise the applause will sound like Wembley Stadium at the cup final instead of a few genteel guests in a refined Edwardian drawing room. I had to laugh at Liz. She was so terribly excited about it. She could hardly contain herself!”
“Did you manage to get through to Kate?” asked Marina. “I know it’s sometimes difficult to get through to her at the bank when it’s busy.”
“Kate? I didn’t think of phoning her at all. I stopped phoning when I reached the right number.”
“But you know she and Liz are such great friends now. She’ll be terribly disappointed if you don’t ask her and she finds out that Liz is going. I wouldn’t be surprised if Liz didn’t phone her right away to tell her the exciting news. You know how they both adore you!”
I hadn’t even thought about whether Kate would be disappointed, but I realised that Marina was quite right. Kate would be very hurt indeed if I didn’t invite her to the recording. Despite her reserve, I didn’t need Marina to tell me that she thought a lot of me. She was probably as fond of me as I was of her. Why on earth hadn’t she been the first person I phoned instead of leaving her out altogether?
I looked up her number in the studio diary and made the call. I don’t think I have ever heard anyone happier to hear my voice in years.
“Will it be you and your parents, Kate, or do you want to bring your boyfriend with you too?”
I hoped she didn’t have a boyfriend, but if she did, I’d have to put a good face on it and receive the spotty youth with good grace.
“I haven’t got a boyfriend,” she replied in a small voice. For some reason I was very pleased to hear this. “It’ll just be me and my parents. Thank you so much for asking us, Mr Craig.”
There was a pause and she added, “I thought you had forgotten me.”
“Never, darling,” I lied bluffly. “Marina and I will meet you in the foyer of Broadcast House at half past seven. You won’t be late, will you?”
“No – we’ll be sure to be there on time,” Kate assured me solemnly.
We were usually pretty casually dressed when we went to rehearsals for the choir. Sometimes Liz was still wearing her blue school uniform if she hadn’t had time to change after some activity at school in the afternoon. We had never seen any of the other broadcasters formally dressed when they arrived at Broadcast House to record their programmes or read the news, although we had heard that BBC news readers had worn evening dress to read the news in the nineteen-thirties – and possibly beyond.
I was glad that Liz and I had dressed smartly for this particular trip to Broadcast House. When we arrived in the brightly lit foyer, there was Malcolm Craig clad in evening dress with a flower in his lapel, while Marina Dunbar wore a low-cut red evening dress, with a mink stole around her shoulders. Their great friend, widower Steve Baxter, a well-known broadcaster on Springbok radio, was obviously going to attend the recording too for he was also formally clad for the occasion although his usual attire for his own broadcasts was a sports jacket and open-necked shirt.
Although she was not taking part in the broadcast Marina was playing hostess to the people Malcolm had assembled for the recording. She ushered us all into the small studio where the recording was to take place and urged everyone to take their seats.
“Keep a seat for me in the front row, won’t you darlings,” she said to Liz and me.
Our parents sat together further back while Liz and I took our seats in the front row on either side of the coveted seat we were saving for Marina, or Miss Dunbar as I still called her. We were beside ourselves with excitement. Malcolm seated himself at a small table to the right of us, ready to begin the recording when he received the nod from the controllers who were seated in the enclosed glass booth at the back of the studio. He took a sip from the glass in front of him and glanced around at the audience.
Liz’s father asked in joking tones, “What’s that you’re drinking, Malcolm?”
“Water,” he replied dryly!
There was no further repartee between them after that exchange. Malcolm told us to clap politely after the items and talk in undertones to each other to create the atmosphere of a refined Edwardian drawing room. Although most of the audience applauded after the violinist and soprano had finished performing, it was only Marina who chatted to us brightly about the performers, and Liz and I did our best to respond with the necessary degree of ladylike decorum. For some reason everyone else seemed overwhelmed by the occasion and uttered not a word.
Malcolm got up from his chair in the corner and walked over to a spot directly in front of us to sing two ballads. Of course I had heard some of his recordings on the radio and I had heard his voice in the studio when he was showing me or one of the other pupils how to sing something properly. I had even heard him singing the Messiah when I was 13, but to experience him singing right in front of me was something I would never forget. Oh, Dry Those Tears and Parted – both sad Edwardian ballads, which he sang in his beautiful voice with all the feeling he could muster. I was completely mesmerised! I almost forgot that I had to chat politely with Marina and Liz after he stopped singing.
At the end of the recording everyone surged around him, congratulating him on his performance. Liz and I were the last in a long line of his admirers.
Malcolm asked us jokingly, “Well, was I all right?”
“All right? You were brilliant, Malcolm!” said Liz with all the confidence of youth.
“I’m glad you approve,” smiled Malcolm. “Perhaps you’ll come to some of the other recordings if you enjoyed this one.”
We nodded eagerly. I certainly couldn’t wait for the next time!
As we left the studio, I caught sight of Marina chatting to Steve Baxter while Malcolm was having a serious discussion with the accompanist. I thought I should say goodbye to her before we left, but I had the impression that she was not pleased that I had interrupted her intimate conversation with Steve Baxter.
“I’m so glad I was able to attend the recording,” I said. “Mr Craig was wonderful.”
“Yes, darling. We’re both very proud of him, aren’t we?” she replied in mocking tones, patting me on my arm. My face grew hot with embarrassment. and I suddenly felt deflated and childish. I realised then that I would be well advised not to offer such fulsome praise in future! Marina and Steve must have thought me very young and gauche.
After that magical evening it was difficult to settle down to sleep and it was a particularly dull thud that I had to force myself awake early in the morning to be in time to catch my regular bus with the other workers on their way to spend all day in shops and offices in the city.
Several months later, I did my music exams in piano and singing. Liz and an Afrikaans girl called Sonette du Preez, another pupil of Malcolm and Marina’s did their exams at the same time and Marina accompanied us all. Liz and I were suitably impressed by Sonette’s beautiful soprano voice when we heard her singing through the door of the the exam room. We decided that she had a much better voice than either of us and would probably do brilliantly in the exam
On Friday I went up to the studio apprehensively, wondering whether the exam results might have arrived. Malcolm answered the door and said heartily:
“I believe you sang very well on Tuesday, my gel!”
I looked at him intensely and said, “No, I was absolutely awful.”
“How do you think you did?”
“I’ve probably failed,” I replied with conviction.
He gave a little chuckle and marched back into the studio, leaving me to wait in the kitchen till Sonette finished her lesson. He called me in excitedly and handed me my card. I had obtained honours for Grade 8. I always expected the worst so I was always surprised if I did well. When I heard that Sonette with her brilliant voice had only managed 72 per cent for Grade 5, a mere pass, I felt disproportionately pleased, while congratulating her. Liz had passed Grade 6 with 72 per cent also. Marina and Malcolm seemed delighted with my results, and for most of that lesson, we drank tea and made firm plans for my diploma. Marina was wearing a black derby style hat and looked particularly striking in it. We all got on so well together that day.
I got honours for the piano exam too. My father was suitably impressed and agreed that I could stop working in the bank soon and study music on a full time basis.
Pearl Harris, translator, writer and proofreader, wrote the following review:
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.
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
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.
I have published three novels in the Malcolm Craig series and hope to publish two more to complete the series.The first novel in the series is called Just the Echo of a Sigh
It was published at the end of 2013.
The second novel in this series about Malcolm Craig is called Faint Harmony