FIONA COMPTON – PEN NAME FOR MY FICTIONAL WRITING

About Fiona Compton

About Fiona Compton

In order not to cause confusion between my non-fiction writing (published in my own name of Jean Collen, I am publishing fiction under the name of Fiona Compton. I have created a Facebook page for FIONA COMPTON – WRITER

If you are registered on Facebook, please like this page and follow it. All my novels and a collection of short stories have a musical theme. They are available at FIONA’S STORE – FICTION WITH A MUSICAL THEME

I have created a separate wordpress page for my fiction writing at: FIONA COMPTON’S FICTION

Third novel in the Malcolm Craig series

Third novel in the Malcolm Craig series

I have completed the third novel in the Malcolm Craig series and have published the book as a paperback and as an Epub E-book. Read more about the new book and the two previous books at: Fiona’s Store – fiction with a musical theme

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.

Malcolm

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.

Kate

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.

Fiona Compton

The first and second books in this series, Just the Echo of a Sigh

First novel in the Malcolm Craig series

First novel in the Malcolm Craig series

The second novel in the series is Faint Harmony

Second novel in the Malcolm Craig series.

Second novel in the Malcolm Craig series.

Other fiction books by Fiona Compton are: I Can’t Forget You:

Fiona Compton's first novel.

Fiona Compton’s first novel.

The Song is Ended and other stories:

Short stories with a musical theme

Short stories with a musical theme

Fiona Compton©

26 August 2015.

On Wings of Song – a musical story of a rejected Pop Idol.

ON WINGS OF SONG

Sally Roos waited restlessly in the line of contestants auditioning for the pop singing competition. Only ten more to go and then it would be her turn. Nobody had made it to the next round for quite a while. She watched the live broadcast of proceedings in the audition room on the giant TV screen: the judges were not at all forthcoming, sometimes even downright rude, making no allowances for the nerves of the contestants. Many were told bluntly, ‘You can’t sing. Promise me you’ll never sing again.’

Sally could see that in many cases they were right, but it was mean to deflate people’s egos so completely. Singing is such an integral part of a person, and it takes courage to sing in public, only to be callously ridiculed. Each failed contestants did a doleful walk of shame, trailing past the waiting hopefuls to the exit door. Many were tearful at having their dreams and self-confidence shattered so abruptly; others were angry and voluble, promising to show everyone that they could still be stars regardless of the flash opinions of the four powers-that-be. But most of the rejects were simply numb from their ordeal, longing for the comfort of home where they could pretend the lowering experience was a nightmare that had never happened. After the excitement of preparing for the competition, the only thing they had to look forward to was that their failed audition would be repeated over and over on TV, reinforcing the debilitating experience in their own mind and the collective mind of the nation.

Worse still, for those still waiting, were the whoops of delight from the few who were given the nod to the following round. Everyone cheered the victors with seemingly unselfish delight, although each one knew that another person through meant there was one less place for them.

Despite the disastrous audition process, most of the crowd were still full of hope. Sally was amazed at the confidence of some of the contestants, who thought nothing of singing in front of everyone at the top of their voices. She wondered whether being a complete extrovert was a prerequisite to becoming a pop star. Some could sing, but many others, equally confident, should never have been there in the first place.

Sally was wearing jeans and an emerald green top to match her eyes and complement her auburn hair and translucent skin but she realised that her mode of dress was conservative in comparison with the girls with pink hair, bare midriffs, low necklines and tight jeans or micro mini-skirts.

Sally had been studying piano since she was small, and classical singing for the last three years. Although Sally loved classical singing and had a pleasing soprano voice, she enjoyed pop music and could party with the best of them. She was doing music for matric, and only three weeks ago she had sung the final ABRSM singing exam. Her teacher, Barbara Boucher had been pleased with her performance and thought she would do well. But her schoolmates egged her on to sing the pop songs of the day. She knew she could do passable imitations of Celine Dion, Mariah Carey, Cher or Britney Spears, in voices quite distant from her own natural soprano. They all thought she was great and encouraged her to enter the pop competition.

She had decided to sing Gershwin’s ‘Summertime’, which had certainly been a popular song in its day, and Charlotte Church had sung it in the film she had made recently. It had jazzy rhythms and she could use her own voice rather than do an imitation of a pop star.

On one side of her was a confident girl with synthetic red hair, dangly earrings, and full stage make-up, her skimpy sequined top and a pink mini skirt barely covering her neat behind. Her shapely legs were clad in fishnet tights and she was frozen on this cold morning. But her spirits were warm and hopeful.

‘I’m ready for this,’ Lauren told Sally, as she rubbed her cold hands together. ‘It’s been my dream since I was a little girl to be a pop diva. I was born to be the new pop idol of South Africa. After that I’ll take on the world.’

Sally was impressed at her new pal’s supreme confidence. She wished she felt as positive about her own pop singing ability, but she knew she was a bit of a sham. How could a classical singer expect to become a pop star overnight? She wasn’t even sure she wanted to be one. She was certainly not as hungry for such a title as she was meant to be.

The boy on her other side was wearing a bright orange woolly hat. Unlike Lauren, he was nervous and twitchy. Periodically he had been up and down to visit the gents, which was no wonder, as apart from his nerves playing havoc with his bladder, he was drinking copious amounts of water from a large bottle.
‘My mouth is so dry,’ Sizwe told her. I’ll never be able to sing properly when I get in there. The judges don’t seem to know what they want. I’ve only just started with a voice trainer. She says I just have to get my voice more mature, and then there’ll be no stopping me. But I’ve only had lessons for three months. Maybe I’m not ready for this. Who’s your voice trainer?’

Voice trainer reminded Sally of a dog trainer. She had a singing teacher, which she presumed was the same thing as a voice trainer, just in different parlance.

Suddenly it was her turn. Lauren had shrieked her way through a Whitney Houston hit with the appropriate accent and ornamentation. She had been suitably berated for imitating her idol and emerged deflated from the audition room, leaving without a word.

Sally wondered what she herself was doing here. At least at the classical music exam she had been well prepared and confident that the examiner, a music professor from the Royal Academy, worked according to the rigorous standards set by the examining board. He had been polite and had not made her aware of his feelings – approving or disapproving – of her singing. The examiner would have written his report with due care. Whatever she achieved in that exam would be her true worth as a singer and musician.

This competition was simply entertainment for a TV audience of couch potatoes, slopping on their sofas, swilling beer, smoking fags, and munching chips and chocolates. A singing competition made a change from Rugby, ‘Big Brother’ or ‘The Weakest Link’. The potatoes could mock the bad singers and laugh at the antics of the cocky know-it-all judges, who were playing up to the cameras by being rude and dismissive to contestants. Even at a cut throat theatrical audition, the director was never rude to those auditioning.
It was too late to leave. She had been called to say a few words to the energetic presenter before her ordeal. Now she was going into this audition room where fairness and politeness were not to be expected from those in authority. Some good singers had been rejected, while poor ones had gone through to the next round. Sally did not rate her chances highly.

‘Just enjoy yourself,’ said the hearty presenter. ‘Show them what you can do, girl!’

Sally walked into the vast audition room, feeling cold, and nervous despite herself. After the preliminaries, she launched into ‘Summertime’. She had more or less found the right key for her unaccompanied performance. Eventually she was aware of a peremptory hand waving to her to stop in the middle of a phrase.

‘You have a good voice,’ admitted the female judge grudgingly. ‘You can sing.’

She was relieved to hear that much.

‘But you’re too operatic,’ said the next one. ‘And that’s not a pop song. Maybe you could make it in musicals, but not pop.’

‘You sing too high,’ said the third judge. ‘You’re not a pop singer. You should stick to opera.’

‘It’s a ‘no’,’ growled the chief judge, yawning and bored.

Sally felt quite dispirited to be turned down so uniformly. At least they hadn’t told her to stop singing under any circumstances. In her case, the judges were right. She wasn’t a pop singer. She didn’t long to be the second Madonna. She had only entered the competition because her mates had persuaded her to do so. Classical singing was far more satisfying and challenging, and what she had been trained to do. She would stick to it in future.

As she gathered up her belongings, she could see Sizwe on the TV screen, adopting a pseudo-confident stance to face the judges, still clutching his water bottle. She wondered what he would do with it while he was singing. Perhaps he would pretend it was a microphone, or the object of his serenade.

They wasted no time with him. He managed to stumble through a few lines of his song. She could hear the judges’ belligerent voices following her as she did the walk of shame.

‘Why are you wasting our time?’ the cocky young judge asked indignantly. ‘You can’t believe you can sing?’

‘And why do you sing in that false accent when you’re a home boy from Soweto, Bru?’ asked another.

‘Don’t even sing in the shower,’ said the third.

‘It’s a no,’ the other mumbled, making no attempt to hide his giggles at the boy’s egregious performance.
Sally was glad she didn’t have to see the crushed expression on Sizwe’s face when he emerged from the audition room. Her boyfriend, Pierre, squeezed her hand sympathetically and led her to his waiting car.

‘The judges don’t know what they’re talking about, Sally. You were the best singer there!’

‘But not a pop singer. They’re right about that.’

One look at her pale tired face told her parents that she hadn’t made it through to the next round. Her mother made everyone a strong cup of tea and brought out her special homemade ginger bread, still warm from the oven. No doubt, she had made it as a treat to celebrate if Sally had gone through to the second round. Now it was comfort food, complete with melting butter.

‘The results from the Board arrived,’ said Mrs Roos casually. ‘Can you face them after that awful audition? I’ll save them till tomorrow if you like.’

‘No, Mum. Where’s the envelope?’

Some colour reappeared in Sally’s face. If she was a flop as a pop singer, perhaps she had fared better in the classical singing exam. She opened the envelope and glanced through the examiner’s report, looking for the all-important mark.

‘It’s Honours!’ she cried. ‘I’ve never had such a high mark for an exam before. At least I’ve managed to do something right.’

Enclosed with the results was a letter asking her to sing at a gala concert for high scorers. There was even a chance she might qualify for a scholarship to one of the British music academies as a result of her high marks.

Pop singing was forgotten as she phoned her singing teacher excitedly to tell her the good news. They planned some extra lessons to prepare for the forthcoming Concert at the Linder Auditorium, where there would be no electronic instruments, no microphones or screaming teenagers in sight, just the grand piano, the accompanist, the singer and a quiet appreciative audience.

Sally would not forget this harrowing day in a hurry. Her musical journey might lead her along a different path to the one followed by pop singers. She might not be destined to be a pop idol, but singing would still play a large part in her life. She could not wait to begin.

Good Reads Book Reviews

The Moon And SixpenceThe Moon And Sixpence by W. Somerset Maugham
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Apparently Strickland was based on the artist Paul Gauguin, but if this was the case, there is a very loose connection between the two for this in not a novel a clef. The book held my interest while the narrator had personal contact with Strickland and his wife. Almost from the beginning of the novel, before Charles Strickland had appeared, I thought him a thoroughly reprehensible character.

Admittedly his wife was not an imaginative woman and used her established position in society to cultivate the society of writers and artists although she appeared to be devoid of any artistic talent herself. She obviously regarded her "dull" husband as nothing more than a meal-ticket and she had never encouraged his artistic inclinations. It is only after he leaves her to her own devices that she manages to pull herself together, fend for herself and look after her children without being dependent on a man any longer.

The portrait of a completely self-centred, inarticulate Strickland, who does not care about the opinion of others was well-drawn but after the narrator is no longer in personal contact with Strickland and the rest of the story of Strickland's life is related to him by a third person the story is less satisfactory. I have to admit that I did not finish the last fifty pages of the book. Although I like Maugham's work, this was not my favourite Maugham novel.

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