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In the small African republic of Kinjanja, British diplomat Morgan Leafy bumbles heavily through his job. His love of women, his fondness for drink, and his loathing for the country prove formidable obstacles on his road to any kind of success. But when he becomes an operative in Operation Kingpin and is charged with monitoring the front runner in Kinjanja’s national elect In the small African republic of Kinjanja, British diplomat Morgan Leafy bumbles heavily through his job. His love of women, his fondness for drink, and his loathing for the country prove formidable obstacles on his road to any kind of success. But when he becomes an operative in Operation Kingpin and is charged with monitoring the front runner in Kinjanja’s national elections, Morgan senses an opportunity to achieve real professional recognition and, more importantly, reassignment. After he finds himself being blackmailed, diagnosed with a venereal disease, attempting bribery, and confounded with a dead body, Morgan realizes that very little is going according to plan.


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In the small African republic of Kinjanja, British diplomat Morgan Leafy bumbles heavily through his job. His love of women, his fondness for drink, and his loathing for the country prove formidable obstacles on his road to any kind of success. But when he becomes an operative in Operation Kingpin and is charged with monitoring the front runner in Kinjanja’s national elect In the small African republic of Kinjanja, British diplomat Morgan Leafy bumbles heavily through his job. His love of women, his fondness for drink, and his loathing for the country prove formidable obstacles on his road to any kind of success. But when he becomes an operative in Operation Kingpin and is charged with monitoring the front runner in Kinjanja’s national elections, Morgan senses an opportunity to achieve real professional recognition and, more importantly, reassignment. After he finds himself being blackmailed, diagnosed with a venereal disease, attempting bribery, and confounded with a dead body, Morgan realizes that very little is going according to plan.

30 review for A Good Man in Africa (Penguin Audiobooks)

  1. 4 out of 5

    Seana

    I loved this book and was quite surprised to see so many one star reviews. I think fans of Evelyn Waugh and of Kingsley Amis's Lucky Jim will like it. It helps if you don't mind the protagonist being a reprehensible character.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Ian

    Morgan Leafy is a great tragi-comic character. This is a good story with a lot of humour.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Ensiform

    Overweight, beleaguered Morgan Leafy, a minor official in the fictional African country of Kinjaja, muddles his way through a series of misadventures. He faces scandal, blackmail, and venereal disease, as well as a righteous Scottish doctor, whom he must attempt to bribe. A very funny novel, with solid, human characters and wonderfully bizarre situations that are nevertheless more believable than, say, Tom Sharpe’s. The plot unfolds compellingly, in three parts, with the middle part a flashback, Overweight, beleaguered Morgan Leafy, a minor official in the fictional African country of Kinjaja, muddles his way through a series of misadventures. He faces scandal, blackmail, and venereal disease, as well as a righteous Scottish doctor, whom he must attempt to bribe. A very funny novel, with solid, human characters and wonderfully bizarre situations that are nevertheless more believable than, say, Tom Sharpe’s. The plot unfolds compellingly, in three parts, with the middle part a flashback, and the third a continuation of the first. This is more than just a comic novel, it’s an almost poignant commentary on what it means to be human. Leafy is an ass, and he brings most (but not all) of his troubles on himself, yet he has the reader’s sympathy throughout. An extremely enjoyable book.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Ellen

    This was William Boyd's award winning first novel so I thought I would give it a try after having LOVED Restless. This is dated and terrible, not at all funny. Don't waste your time. I kept hoping it would get better and it didn't. If I had known I wouldn't have wasted my time.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Ilana

    "Like Rome, Nkongsamba was built on seven hills, but there the similarity ended. Set in undulating tropical rain forest, from the air it resembled nothing so much as a giant pool of crapulous vomit on somebody's expansive unmown lawn. Every building was roofed with corrugated iron in various advanced stages of rusty erosion, and from the window of the Commission -- established nobly on a hill above town -- Morgan could see the roofs stretch before him, an ochrous tin checker-board, a bilious met "Like Rome, Nkongsamba was built on seven hills, but there the similarity ended. Set in undulating tropical rain forest, from the air it resembled nothing so much as a giant pool of crapulous vomit on somebody's expansive unmown lawn. Every building was roofed with corrugated iron in various advanced stages of rusty erosion, and from the window of the Commission -- established nobly on a hill above town -- Morgan could see the roofs stretch before him, an ochrous tin checker-board, a bilious metallic sea, the paranoiac vision of a mad town planner." Morgan Leafy is the protagonist of this comedy set in the fictitious town of Nkongsamba, state capital of the Mid-West region of Kinjanja, West Africa. As the second in command to the Deputy High Commissioner, he occupies what could be considered an important post in Her Majesty the Queen's diplomatic service, if only Nkongsamba could be considered a posting of any consequence. As the story begins, Leafy's many trials are just beginning, with the announcement that his new assistant, just recently arrived for the UK to give a helping hand, has gotten engaged to his boss's daughter, which he himself had had high hopes of marrying. This is only a minor setback though, because there are more pressing matters to attend to, mainly the business of bribing a high official, a task which he's been blackmailed into taking on, and also getting rid of the body of a local woman recently hit by lightning, which her compatriots absolutely defend anybody from touching for fear a local wrathful deity will take offence. Caught between a boss who uses him to take care of any and all unpleasant and humiliating tasks he can come up with and a megalomaniac local politician who threatens to reveal his most compromising secrets, not to mention the amorous attentions of the politician's wife, and a nice dose of ghonorrea passed on to him by his local girlfriend, Leafy's trials and tribulations truly make for a comical read as he tries to extricate himself from a mess that just keeps getting more complicated and unpleasant with every move he makes. I'm not altogether sure what to make of A Good Man in Africa . It was certainly entertaining, and I guess I should take into consideration that it was William Boyd's first published effort (for which he won both a Whitbread and a Somerset Maugham award), and also that it was hardly a story I could expect to end with all loose ends perfectly tied up and neatly tucked in. While this book certainly works well as high comedy, I couldn't help but feel a slight discomfort about the way in which the locals are depicted as either unscrupulous power hungry manipulators or superstitious simpletons content to live in squalor and stinking decay, but in all fairness, all the characters in this biting satire receive evenhanded treatment as unlikeable individuals, all the better to reflect Leafy's own cynical view of humanity, which he may or may not be forced to reconsider by novel's end. 4.5 stars, which means I will most probably give it another reading or two sometime.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Kim

    Setting: 'Kinjanja', West Africa. In his debut novel, William Boyd tells the story of Morgan Leafy, secretary to the British High Commissioner in the town of Nkongsamba - a thoroughly-jaded and not particularly likeable character who has been in the country for several years and, although generally disliking it, has no particular ambition to do anything else. Through his often well-meaning actions, Morgan gets involved in blackmail, adultery, body-snatching, election-tampering and bribery - and Setting: 'Kinjanja', West Africa. In his debut novel, William Boyd tells the story of Morgan Leafy, secretary to the British High Commissioner in the town of Nkongsamba - a thoroughly-jaded and not particularly likeable character who has been in the country for several years and, although generally disliking it, has no particular ambition to do anything else. Through his often well-meaning actions, Morgan gets involved in blackmail, adultery, body-snatching, election-tampering and bribery - and the outcomes are rarely the intended ones.... I have read several of William Boyd's novels but liked this one the least of all of them - perhaps it was because it was a debut novel and he was just finding his feet as an author, perhaps it was the high expectations generated from cover blurb describing the novel as '...uproariously funny' (The Observer) - certainly if I was going to recommend a book about Africa that was uproariously funny it would be Indecent Exposure or Riotous Assembly, which are definitely that. This one, to me, was not - didn't especially like the central character so this was a bit of a 'miss' for me. Still won't put me off reading other books by him which I already have as I have enjoyed the four others of his I have read - 6/10.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Brooke

    I found this book absolutely hilarious. I was literally in hysterics for an entire 20 page chapter - my husband was looking at me in awe as I have not laughed that long or hard in ages, and as he says, "I am a hard audience." That being said, it's not a riot throughout, but Boyd develops the characters so well that he can pull this off artfully. Having lived in Africa and England, I really appreciated Boyd's characters in all their Africanness and their Britishness. Morgan Leafy is an aspiring d I found this book absolutely hilarious. I was literally in hysterics for an entire 20 page chapter - my husband was looking at me in awe as I have not laughed that long or hard in ages, and as he says, "I am a hard audience." That being said, it's not a riot throughout, but Boyd develops the characters so well that he can pull this off artfully. Having lived in Africa and England, I really appreciated Boyd's characters in all their Africanness and their Britishness. Morgan Leafy is an aspiring diplomat in a small West African nation, and despite the best of intentions, he makes a complete ass of himself. I'll leave it at that! I'd love to hear if others find it as amusing.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    My actual rating for this book is a 3.5. I really enjoyed reading it, but I had to take periodic breaks because poor Morgan’s life was such a shitshow, it just got overwhelming. Half of the crap is from other people, like his boss Fanshawe. And half of the crap is of his own making, Like Hazel and Celia. But you do feel like he’s asked to put up with more than anyone can reasonably handle. Anyway, it was a good tragicomedy that was more fun than I expected.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Phil Livingstone

    My second book club book turned up trumps, thanks to my fellow member for recommending this to the group. The folly of imperial Africa is laid bare. The personality of diplomatic relationships exposed. Power and lust collide. All told through the eyes of an imperfect Englishman struggling to make a name for himself. At times funny, shocking, intriguing or all at once. A page turner with a good story that moves cleverly between time periods. Will read more of Boyd now.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Debs Carey

    I didn't realise until seeing other reviews that this was Boyd's first book. I was so glad to discover that for I was concerned he'd lost his touch. One of the things I really love about his books is how well he knows Africa. Of course, he's also a great storyteller. In this one, all the component parts were present, but it was all done with a sledgehammer rather than his usual deft touch.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Tom

    Completely politically incorrect and savagely funny. An antidote to the neurotic political correctness of the modern day. By invoking a particular type of erudite British humour, William Boyd and his hero Morgan Leafy are following in the footsteps of Kingsley Amis and Jim Dixon. This novel is a delightful satire of the British pretensions to influence in Africa.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Al

    The author's first novel. In this case, as is often true with first novels, the early Boyd gets the worm. This book is an over the top, scathing indictment of the English colonial presence in Africa. The protagonist, Morgan Leafy, is a minor colonial official in a fictional west African country. Attack fiction is fine, but the Leafy of the early pages is such a total waste (moral, human, intellectual, sexual, you name it) that I almost quit reading. Sure, his situations are ridiculous (not real The author's first novel. In this case, as is often true with first novels, the early Boyd gets the worm. This book is an over the top, scathing indictment of the English colonial presence in Africa. The protagonist, Morgan Leafy, is a minor colonial official in a fictional west African country. Attack fiction is fine, but the Leafy of the early pages is such a total waste (moral, human, intellectual, sexual, you name it) that I almost quit reading. Sure, his situations are ridiculous (not really "funny", because of Leafy's total lack of redeeming qualities), but Leafy's attitudes are so degrading they made me want to look away. I stuck it out, though (although not as often as Leafy did), and things improved a little by the end. Not enough to warrant reading the book, however, unless you happen to like the type (Graham Greene does it much better, so stop there if your time is limited).

  13. 4 out of 5

    Leslie

    3.5★ Morgan Leafy is a civil servant in the early 1970s Foreign Service posted to the small (mythical) country of Kinjanja in Africa. He simultaneously has inferiority and superiority issues -- he walks around with a huge chip on his shoulder but feels innately more important than any of the Africans. While this dicotomy is exaggerated in this satire, I suspect that it is not uncommon in people with Foreign Service postings in out-of-the-way places in Africa, Asia and elsewhere. However, Boyd's s 3.5★ Morgan Leafy is a civil servant in the early 1970s Foreign Service posted to the small (mythical) country of Kinjanja in Africa. He simultaneously has inferiority and superiority issues -- he walks around with a huge chip on his shoulder but feels innately more important than any of the Africans. While this dicotomy is exaggerated in this satire, I suspect that it is not uncommon in people with Foreign Service postings in out-of-the-way places in Africa, Asia and elsewhere. However, Boyd's satire didn't entertain me the way Evelyn Waugh did in his African satires -- the humor is more caustic and felt more mean-spirited.

  14. 5 out of 5

    James

    The blurb on the back cover made this sound like a fun book to read. After reading the first 7 pages I was bored with the writing style - the author keeps mentioning things that have happened to the protagonist, but then doesn't fully expand on them. Unfortunately, we already know these titbits of information as they are on the back cover - they need to be expanded!! Flicking through the rest of the book I realised I hadn't seemed to miss much by heading to the end - all in all, a dissappointmen The blurb on the back cover made this sound like a fun book to read. After reading the first 7 pages I was bored with the writing style - the author keeps mentioning things that have happened to the protagonist, but then doesn't fully expand on them. Unfortunately, we already know these titbits of information as they are on the back cover - they need to be expanded!! Flicking through the rest of the book I realised I hadn't seemed to miss much by heading to the end - all in all, a dissappointment as the cover blurb promised much more than was delivered.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Kusaimamekirai

    There is an exchange about halfway through this story where the story’s only morally decent character tells our morally ambivalent “hero” to beware confusing “seeming” and “being”. This is in many respects the underlying theme of “A Good Man in Africa”. The story is set in a small town in Africa where the remnants of an old British colonial outpost try to maintain their influence with local politicians. On the surface, our “hero” Morgan is the frontman for these machinations and everything he d There is an exchange about halfway through this story where the story’s only morally decent character tells our morally ambivalent “hero” to beware confusing “seeming” and “being”. This is in many respects the underlying theme of “A Good Man in Africa”. The story is set in a small town in Africa where the remnants of an old British colonial outpost try to maintain their influence with local politicians. On the surface, our “hero” Morgan is the frontman for these machinations and everything he does is through the lens of dealing with an uncivilised and backward people who are easy to exploit and manipulate. This colonial thinking is wonderfully illustrated by Morgan’s superior who in seeking to curry favour with a village strongman offers him a first class flight to London and a weekend at a swanky hotel. When told of the offer the strongman responds in a vein that neatly expresses the post colonial order: ‘Thank you,’ Adekunle said finally. ‘Thank you for your offer. I will see if I can fit it into my itinerary.’ ‘Itinerary?’ Morgan repeated, nonplussed. ‘Do you mean…?’ ‘Yes, my dear Mr British Deputy High Commission man. You are a very late bird to catch this worm, as the saying goes. Once I’ve been to Washington, Paris, Bonn and Rome I’ll see if I can drop in on London. Thank you again, Mr Leafy,’ he said still smiling. ‘No wonder the Empire went. Yes?’ There’s something darkly humorous about this passage that brings us back to the seeming/being paradigm. The British think they can still offer trinkets to greedy warlords and they will come running. Who is exploiting who in this new world however becomes murky to say the least. Rather than the simple duality of a colonial/colonised world, the new reality is simply amoral. Blackmail, adultery, and corruption are the rules of the day and those with a moral compass don’t survive very long. It sounds grim, and it certainly is, but the absurdity of a world that was formerly governed by strict and hierarchical rules but is now every man(and woman) for themselves is also endlessly amusing. There are some laugh out loud sections of this story that one wouldn’t expect from something on this topic, particularly since so many characters are so despicable. Characters who go through their lives thinking things like: “With a sudden flash of prophetic inspiration he felt he knew why there was so much evil in the world: the price you paid for being good was simply quite out of proportion, preposterously over-valued.” My only criticism would be that as well as Boyd writes, he was at times a little heavy handed with his metaphors. A dead girl in the street named “Innocence” did make me roll my eyes a bit but for the most part, Boyd’s portrayal of greed, selfishness, and misguided and outdated colonial thinking was a great read.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Peter

    An entertaining book, well written, of course. The main character is a fairly repulsive sort who does at times do something right. I might have given another star, but the ending sort of fizzled out (or maybe I failed to understand it). Most other characters are venial, incompetent, or corrupt, but this is revealed slowly through the book. The background is vividly described, the heat, the chaos, and the poverty. An interesting, and at times entertaining, read.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Realini

    A Good Man in Africa by William Boyd 10 out of 10 This novel is astounding, phenomenal and it confirms the admiration that I have gained for the author after reading another splendid work, An Ice-Cream War. The thought provoking booking left yours truly wondering who is The Good Man in Africa, for the most obvious answer may not apply in this case. Morgan Leafy, the First Secretary to the British High Commission in Nkongsamba, the second most important city in the West African country of Kinjanja, s A Good Man in Africa by William Boyd 10 out of 10 This novel is astounding, phenomenal and it confirms the admiration that I have gained for the author after reading another splendid work, An Ice-Cream War. The thought provoking booking left yours truly wondering who is The Good Man in Africa, for the most obvious answer may not apply in this case. Morgan Leafy, the First Secretary to the British High Commission in Nkongsamba, the second most important city in the West African country of Kinjanja, seems to be the first suspect for the role of the Good Man. But although the readers sympathize with him. He is a complex, flawed man and Doctor Alex Murray appears to be a more viable candidate for the Moral, Ethical Man in Africa. In the first chapters, we find the First Secretary in trouble and then the narrative takes us back and we learn about a Series of Unfortunate and hilarious events. When the daughter of his superior, Arthur Fanshawe, lands with her parents at the local airport, the protagonist is there to greet them and later on, he shows the young, luscious woman around. Priscilla Fanshawe has just been through a painful breakup, her fiancée resigning his position, traveling to East Asia where he married a local woman. The High Commissioner and his wife, the corpulent Chloe, had been stationed in Asia, for which they have admiration, awe and a ridiculous obsession, before being posted to this backwater, which would be his last assignment. This high representative does not understand, like or care for the land where he works now and keeps lamenting: Ah, if this would happen in the East or the alternative...this could never happen in the East. While seeing Priscilla and getting ever closer to her, Morgie as she calls him has a local mistress called Hazel that infects him with gonorrhea. This has catastrophic effects, beyond the medical treatment required, for the hero learns from Doctor Murray about his diagnosis just as he is about to spend the night with an inebriated, horny and determined Priscilla. The Good Man in Africa has to use all his strength and perseverance to get out of a situation where the woman took off her clothes, and was physically forcing him to have sex. Well, the last part might be exaggerated a bit. Anyway, the moment when he stands up in front of the disheveled woman and states clearly that there would be no innuendo that night, their relationship is over. Indeed, a new man arrives at the Commission, Dickie Dalmire, and he will soon announce his engagement with Priscilla. This fictional West African Country - as the author explains, he was inspired by Nigeria and for the character of Doctor Murray by his own father - would have elections in a short time and receive the visit of a Duchess. The British want Sam Adekunle to win, suspecting he will favor them if elected. Morgan Leafy has been told to get close to the local bigwig, invite him to London and influence him as much as possible. However, he ends up having an affair with his wife, Celia Adekunle, a white woman, born in Britain and interested to return to her home country. This depends on the First Secretary, for he has the power of granting a visa and this might be the reason why she has initiated this relationship. Sam Adekunle finds out and he now blackmails the hero, asking him to bribe Doctor Murray, whose negative report may cost the corrupt power lord a lot of money. They is only one of the many problems that crash on the head of the poor Good Man, for one of the servants at the Commissioner's house, Innocence, had been struck by lightning and killed. This means for the locals that the God Shango has to be appeased, made to forget his wrath, but in the meantime, nobody can touch a corpse rotting in the African sun,close to the residence of Arthur Fanshawe. The latter calls the hero and orders him to take care of the issue, which proves to be impossible, for undertakers either refuse, or are chased away by the servants who wants a fetish priest, who has to kill a goat, offer beer, perform various rituals and only after that a burial can take place, costing perhaps eighty pounds, quite a large sum there and then. Appalled by the fact that the cadaver rests under the sun for days, the High Commissioner threatens Morgan Leafy and gives him only one day to dispose of the body, which cannot be there when the Duchess arrives. The inventive Good Man takes his servants, makes one help him carry the corpse, which is now in advance putrefaction with all the implied consequences, to his Peugeot car, where it is placed in the boot. The whole adventure, immensely amusing, involves a lost poet, who appears like a ghost, just as the hero was trying to get Innocence away, threatening to bring all the plan to a calamitous end. Alas, the following day, the hero is First Secretary is summoned by his superior and told that the corpse has to be...back in the same place in twenty four hours! The numerous staff went on strike when they saw the Shango victim disappeared and this cannot do, for they are just waiting for the arrival of the semi Royal guest. As aforementioned, this book is hilarious - included on The Guardian list of 1,000 books to read before you die, in the comedy section - phenomenal, elating, exhilarating and memorable. A masterpiece!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jan Draper

    A funny read. Very over the top which sometimes was OK sometimes too extreme. I skimmed to the end. I don't think I cared enough about any of the protagonists. The book probably suffers from being a first book, one review referred to a sledgehammer and it did feel a bit like that everything was extreme, exaggerated . I enjoyed his later books more.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Laurie

    Anyone with a name like Morgan Leafy is bound to have troubles. His career has wandered onto a jungle path and got lost. He's freckled, balding, going to fat. Within the Foreign Office, he's a second-stringer if ever there was one: not Oxbridge, not connected to the right people (or any people, for that matter) and stuck in a provincial backwater in west Africa as second-in-command to an about-to-retire has-been diplomat who spent his entire career in the Orient until, presumably because of his Anyone with a name like Morgan Leafy is bound to have troubles. His career has wandered onto a jungle path and got lost. He's freckled, balding, going to fat. Within the Foreign Office, he's a second-stringer if ever there was one: not Oxbridge, not connected to the right people (or any people, for that matter) and stuck in a provincial backwater in west Africa as second-in-command to an about-to-retire has-been diplomat who spent his entire career in the Orient until, presumably because of his failing diplomatic powers or some unspoken slip-up, he's also shunted off to this provincial post. He and his awful wife can't fathom Africa, even a little. But then their daughter, disappointed in love, comes out. Maybe Leafy's prospects are looking up. If she isn't exactly a beauty and her head is as empty as they come, Priscilla may be the answer to Leafy's problems: she's got the connections and the social graces he so clearly lacks. BUT … Morgan Leafy is one of those people everything happens to. Part of the charm of this novel is that all but the luckiest of us have been in a position where we've had to smile and metaphorically curtsy to people we can easily and cheerfully imagine being run down by a mad bull elephant or to whom we shout (in our imaginations only, of course) very rude words. If Morgan isn't the nicest bloke on the block, he's also no worse than many, but he's in that position between having responsibility he cannot shirk and not having any power to direct what he does (or for that matter, what anyone else does). Whatever problem he solves turns out to need a different solution from the one he's come up with. That's why disposing of Innocence (the dead servant) poses such an insoluble problem. Although I'd say I'm not like that, I got a lot of vicarious enjoyment from Morgan's sotto voce expressions of bile and blind anger at the hand he's been dealt. The novel has a somewhat convoluted plot, but then isn't that like real life? And in the end, his enemy turns out to be the one person he admires and respects.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Susan Wilson

    This is my third William Boyd. I enjoyed Restless and Ordinary Thunderstorms and so though it best I read his first novel that had won such international acclaim when published in 1981. I was disspointed. Maybe some of the scandal of taking a black lover (and vice versa) or contracting a STD or being considered “uptight” sexually may have still titillated in some conservative circles in 1981 but I didn’t find it that funny or even interesting. I struggled to get started, was bored with the teena This is my third William Boyd. I enjoyed Restless and Ordinary Thunderstorms and so though it best I read his first novel that had won such international acclaim when published in 1981. I was disspointed. Maybe some of the scandal of taking a black lover (and vice versa) or contracting a STD or being considered “uptight” sexually may have still titillated in some conservative circles in 1981 but I didn’t find it that funny or even interesting. I struggled to get started, was bored with the teenage like groping sex scenes. The book is structured into three parts which are the present, past and back to present. Heading into part three I was lulled into the thought that the bumbling, thoroughly unlikeable central character who was flailing through life was going to, somehow, redeem himself and sort out his mess of a life in some grand and clever final hurrah. Alas, he didn’t and the end left me flat. I will try a couple more William Boyd’s but suggest this one is past it’s “best before” date.

  21. 5 out of 5

    russell barnes

    Not as polished as Restless, cruder and lacking the ambition and emotional range of Any Human Heart, but more engaging than The Blue Afternoon: Will that do? It's the story of put-upon diplomat Morgan Leafy struggling to make any headway against the problems lobbed at him, often of his own making, in a forgotten Embassy in an African backwater. Actually, A Good Man in Africa is a pretty entertaining romp in the Tom Sharpe mould. Not that I can write of course, but you can easily spot these influe Not as polished as Restless, cruder and lacking the ambition and emotional range of Any Human Heart, but more engaging than The Blue Afternoon: Will that do? It's the story of put-upon diplomat Morgan Leafy struggling to make any headway against the problems lobbed at him, often of his own making, in a forgotten Embassy in an African backwater. Actually, A Good Man in Africa is a pretty entertaining romp in the Tom Sharpe mould. Not that I can write of course, but you can easily spot these influences, like Sharpe, in this debut novel. What's more interesting is can also sense him breaking their shackles on his creativity. The black humour is there in spades as his feel for Africa, but you can spot lurking in the background the Logan Mountstuarts, Lysander Riefs, Eves and even James Bonds of the future taking shape in Kinjanja. I liked it, but I liked it more as a proto-Boyd completist, which makes me sound terribly dull.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Dale

    Wow! I love William Boyd's versatility. The humor in the book is a side-splitting at some of his action novels are nail-biting. Poor Morgan Leafy, he has a lot on his plate as we are introduced to him, and the novel does a great job of ratcheting up that tension in the first section and then retracing the steps--almost entirely missteps--that led him to all his predicaments. It is that subtle British humor, though, that provides the glue to stick all these scenes together and keeps us turning on Wow! I love William Boyd's versatility. The humor in the book is a side-splitting at some of his action novels are nail-biting. Poor Morgan Leafy, he has a lot on his plate as we are introduced to him, and the novel does a great job of ratcheting up that tension in the first section and then retracing the steps--almost entirely missteps--that led him to all his predicaments. It is that subtle British humor, though, that provides the glue to stick all these scenes together and keeps us turning one page after another asking, "How on earth will he get out of any of this?" A most enjoyable read!

  23. 4 out of 5

    Trish

    Boy this has been a struggle. It's dated, not particularly funny, too much gratuitous sex, there are very few characters I actually liked - especially the main character, who I ended up rooting for something bad to happen to - and the one decent person in the whole thing gets gratuitously killed. It doesn't even have a satisfying ending. I probably wouldn't have bothered finishing it if it hadn't been for a Book Club.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Paul The Uncommon Reader

    This man has potential! My fifth Boyd, this being the earliest of his that I’ve read (published in 1981). Once again, the book was not what I expected at all. After reading (and loving) "Waiting for Sunrise", with its clever plot and mature reflections on how humans perceive things, and adoring (for different reasons) the huge tapestry of adventure of “Any Human Heart”, here was something different again. Basically a comic novel, a satire, a pastiche. But I’m not sure of what it is supposed to be This man has potential! My fifth Boyd, this being the earliest of his that I’ve read (published in 1981). Once again, the book was not what I expected at all. After reading (and loving) "Waiting for Sunrise", with its clever plot and mature reflections on how humans perceive things, and adoring (for different reasons) the huge tapestry of adventure of “Any Human Heart”, here was something different again. Basically a comic novel, a satire, a pastiche. But I’m not sure of what it is supposed to be a satire – or rather, what the object of Boyd’s undoubted wit is meant to be. I think it’s important to bear in mind how young Boyd was when he wrote it: in his twenties. I think that both he and his publisher knew he could write, or at least that he had the intellectual wherewithall, stamina and ambition to become a writer, but I don’t think he had found his voice yet. The characters were feasible, the plot bowls along at a good pace for 1981 (thirty-seven years later, with the changed pace of life that we, um, enjoy, it does drag sometimes and some scenes seem repetitive and to not add all that much to the plot – yes, the Fanshawes are privileged and snooty, and Morgan is put-upon and put down, we get that early on, no need to provide quite so many examples that don’t move the plot forwards). As I say, I think Boyd is still looking for his voice. Some people have compared this book favourably with Kingsley Amis’s “Lucky Jim”. I can see the likenesses. Young, not un-talented professional is under the yoke of a mean but incompetent boss who rules not by merit but by birth. He struggles to be heard, is abused terribly at work, by being forced to clean up said boss’s mess, with no prospect of promotion or even thanks. He struggles gamely, but the class system dooms him to failure, until … . But for me, that is where the comparisons end (though it is a daunting one – “Lucky Jim” is for me a masterpiece of 20th Century comic fiction, without which the genre of red-brick universitry satire (and David Lodge’s IMO very overrated career) would undoubtedly never have prospered). Firstly, the writing. Where “Lucky Jim” is terse and compact, “Africa” is wordy and ruminating. Amis’s prose is razor sharp, witty and drenched in succulent irony – Boyd is – by comparison – dull and inpenetrative. (Boyd though did later turn this into a virtue – Amis would never have had the patience or intellectual wherewithall to come up with the insights, born of patient thought, that “Waiting for Sunrise” gives us). But the most glaring error that Boyd made, I think, in this novel, was to make his protagonist so very unlikeable. Amis’s Jim Dixon is very likeable – an innocent victim, always works hard, loves and fights for his girl. We want him to beat the system and we want him to win the maiden’s heart. He is the archetypal underdog whom we root for. Boyd’s Morgan, on the other hand, … . And because we don’t like him or want him to win, the novel is robbed of nearly all of its comic tension. Because he’s only ever fighting for himself, he is no better than the people we are (rightly) despising. This kind of takes the point away of everything. A positive point for me was, however, the quiet irony (behind the overtly and genuinely funny, slapstick black humour) of the episode surrounding the character called Innocence. I think we can safely call this part of the plot " the death of Innocence" and can read a degree of allegory into it in terms of the whole book. Some readers might find the imagery laboured (colonials despair only at the death of an innocent African woman because it interferes with their risible priorities at flying the flag of imperialist "superiority", a notion that is laid bare in the hilarious bathroom scene involving Morgan and the Duchess of Nowhere). But I thought its darkness and bleakness, demonstrating as it did the hideous clash of cultures that colonialism always entails, was really set alight by the very black, as I say slapstick, comedy of this very effective sub-plot. "If you want to really shock your audience, make them laugh out loud." The time-tested dictum of the skilled satirist, from Aristophanes to Juvenal; from Swift to Amis. And I laughed out loud at the death of Innocence, and who wouldn't? In summing the novel up, I think that perhaps Boyd’s youthful and idealistic zest got the better of him. So determined was he to tear down the shackles of colonialism (that he had no doubt witnessed whilst growing up in Nigeria) that he got stuck in the conundrum of painting a white “hero” who was very much part of that system – and therefore had to be an evil cynic and misanthropic, egotistical oppressor. I was left wondering why Boyd hadn’t written about an indigenous and sympathetic hero, one that took on the system and beat it. The book really needed a likeable victim, be he black or white. (Instead, we had a thoroughly nasty African dictator figure. Perhaps in 1981, Boyd’s (European, white) readership was not yet ready for that kind of revolution.) Thus the ending was, for me, contrived and very inauthentic. Why did Morgan suddenly volunteer to save everyone in the siege? Instant transformation from selfish conspirator to altruistic hero? Very unlikely. I was interested to read an early Boyd, because I think he is a very gifted and thoughtful writer, and I wanted to see how he started out. I was pleased to glean some background, but the book itself was no masterpiece (which I am sure Boyd himself would acknowledge). Incidentally, the last, the very last, paragraph of the book is verging on breathtaking – if a little out of place. A taste of things to come; almost as if the later Boyd had popped up to impress us, albeit in a place that was entirely inappropriate. Like an eight-year-old who suddenly, amidst the jabber, starts giving us lucid, fluent new insights into Homer’s Iliad. Good writing, I think, is all about voices: cogent and appropriate voices.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Aleksandra

    Nice satire about lower rank diplomat posted at the forgotten town in forgotten country.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Ken Ryu

    I loved this book. Boyd succeeds in so many phases. Before breaking down the successful elements of this impressive work, let's first get some housekeeping out of the way. The story features British diplomat Morgan Leafy who is assigned to the British Embassy in the African republic of Kinjanja. Over the Christmas holiday and days prior to an important national election, Leafy become embroiled in a series of absurd and curious scenarios. He seems to be a lightening rod for bad luck and self-infli I loved this book. Boyd succeeds in so many phases. Before breaking down the successful elements of this impressive work, let's first get some housekeeping out of the way. The story features British diplomat Morgan Leafy who is assigned to the British Embassy in the African republic of Kinjanja. Over the Christmas holiday and days prior to an important national election, Leafy become embroiled in a series of absurd and curious scenarios. He seems to be a lightening rod for bad luck and self-inflicted chaos. He drinks too much. He is overly lustful. He also has the worst possible luck. Boyd sends Leafy on quixotic errands. Rather than finding solutions, Leafy seems to compound the problems with his valiant efforts. He is bright and resourceful. Despite all his best intentions and solutions, like a man struggling in quicksand, he only sink deeper into his troubled pit. Gonorrhea, ill-fated love affairs, political intrigue, lightening-induced death, revolutionary uprisings are some of the events that envelop poor Leafy. Now to the accolades. Character Development: Leafy is a brilliant and convincing character. We get to know him intimately. We see all his flaws and virtues. He is someone we can cheer for despite his caddish behavior. We laugh at his exploits and worry as he faces setback after setback. Leafy's boss Fanshawe, Fanshawe's wife Chloe, Fanshawe's daughter Priscilla, the aspiring and corrupt professor-turned-politician Adekunle, Adekunle's Bristish-born wife Celia, and the incorruptible Dr. Murray are stars brilliantly developed in Boyd's extensive cast. There are no caricatures to be found. Boyd deals in deep, credible and complex personas. His characters are consistent throughout. Despite numerous scenes and crises, the character never break character or lose their originality. Plot: The plot is tight. Boyd starts near the end. He then rolls back a few months in order to show how Leafy and company arrive at their current predicaments. This technique is effective and executed brilliantly. The back stories are coherent and unexpected. We learn that Priscilla and Leafy had a short-lived romance. When we understand why the relationship fractured, the reason is shocking and delightfully conceived and described. Leafy's series of unfortunate events are spectacular. Boyd devises ingenious ways to explain how these events came to be. The action never seems forced or exaggerated. Boyd also never loses track of details that so often trips up lesser writers who dare to dream up a multitude of intertwining story lines. Wit: Leafy is quick on his feet and has a sharp wit, but that is not the primary source of the humor of "A Good Man". Leafy is constantly contending with stressful events. While doing his best to deal with these situations, he finds himself caught in embarrassing acts at the worst time again and again. On a romantic fishing outing with Priscilla, the mood is broken when they land a monster fish. Leafy has to subdue the wriggling monster and ultimately smash its head in with a rock. These fateful acts of odd luck are constantly following our hero Leafy. History and Culture: The world of the British diplomat is explained to the reader. We learn the p0litics, agenda, tactics, and career path of these ex-pats. The relationship between Leafy and Fanshawe is intriguing. Leafy must abide by the many whims of his boss, including some outside the box assignments. We learn of the politics and foreign influence in an oil-rich African nation, and how favored politicians leverage these connections. We learn about the corruption, the military foil to the political leadership, and the potential for riotous citizens in these African nations. Boyd spent time in Africa, and the scenes he describe seem to be taken from his life experience. We are the richer with his sharing his proprietary knowledge. Style and Writing: Boyd is a master of the language. His sentences are concise, his phrasing is impeccable, and his story is told without the words getting in the way. There are many great storytellers who lack the vocabulary, the restraint, and the skill, but can still deliver an exciting story. Boyd achieves the unique feat of great storytelling without flawed language. Great Beginning, Profound and Well-Crafted Conclusion: As the pages wind down, it seems that "A Good Man" is headed for a non-ending ending. There is too much happening and too few pages to close the book with a neat finale. Wrong! Boyd nails it. Only on the last few pages does the title become clear. Boyd waits, waits, waits to deliver his message. When he finally does, it is all the more powerful due to his patience. He does not pound the reader over the head, but he makes his point and it is clear and powerful. A great book in so many ways. The sub 4 star rating is a complete shocker. After reading "A Good Man" and "Any Human Heart", Boyd has elevated to one of my favorite authors.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Christian Schwoerke

    This novel struck me as a mash-up of Kingsley Amis’ Lucky Jim and any number of Graham Greene’s novels (though I’d lean towards The Honorary Consul). While the main character is experiencing the displacement of being in a foreign environment as an emissary of an occupying/controlling nation, much as Greene’s characters do in those several Englishman-in-outpost-Empire novels, he does not suffer in the same fashion as Greene’s protagonists from the torments of conscience. Instead, in a rather bump This novel struck me as a mash-up of Kingsley Amis’ Lucky Jim and any number of Graham Greene’s novels (though I’d lean towards The Honorary Consul). While the main character is experiencing the displacement of being in a foreign environment as an emissary of an occupying/controlling nation, much as Greene’s characters do in those several Englishman-in-outpost-Empire novels, he does not suffer in the same fashion as Greene’s protagonists from the torments of conscience. Instead, in a rather bumptious way, Boyd’s character is more callow and more self-centered, and his responses to events entail petty (but amusing) mutterings under his breath, much in the manner of the aspiring professor in Lucky Jim. British consulate secretary Morgan Leafy bumbles his way into becoming blackmailed by a high-ranking Kinjanjan political figure, and his efforts to remove himself from the demands of acting as a bribe-offering go-between end up destroying his career. Despite the grimness of the premise, Leafy’s twisting and thrashing in the web of his own making produces much antic comedy. One episode of note has him hiding behind a shower curtain, dressed as a fire-singed Santa, discovered by the stunned, unsightly naked figure of a visiting British Royal family member. His rejoinder to her gob-smacked incredulity, as he scampers through the window to safety below—“Evening, Duchess! … I promise I won’t tell if you don’t.”—is a priceless bit of cheekiness. The moral center of this novel is Leafy’s final realization that things are not always what they seem, that his self-vaunted ability to take the measure of a man (and a situation) has always been marred by his too ready reliance on the appearance of things. Throughout the novel, he has carried an animus towards a dour-seeming Scottish doctor who works at the university clinic. Several comic episodes with this doctor only lead to further personal chagrin and greater animus towards the doctor. When he must at last bribe the doctor on the politician’s behalf, he begins to get a sense of the man’s integrity. A further, more sober encounter—when he is escaping protesters/rioters and police on a night of violence and gunfire—shortly after which the doctor is killed by a stray bullet, makes him aware of just what a good man the doctor had been. It’s a boffo read, and it takes its energy from and pays homage to two sources that I’ve long enjoyed, in the process somehow using levity to pay honor to dignity.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Warriner

    William Boyd's novel A Good Man in Africa (1981) follows the misadventures of Morgan Leafy, a hopelessly self-centered employee of the British Deputy High Commission in a fictional country called Kinjanja, in West Africa. The book is hilarious at times and at others rather serious and even macabre. Leafy is tasked with removing the dead body of a servant named Innocence from the grounds of his employer's home. She was killed by a lightning strike which the locals believe was the work of Shango, William Boyd's novel A Good Man in Africa (1981) follows the misadventures of Morgan Leafy, a hopelessly self-centered employee of the British Deputy High Commission in a fictional country called Kinjanja, in West Africa. The book is hilarious at times and at others rather serious and even macabre. Leafy is tasked with removing the dead body of a servant named Innocence from the grounds of his employer's home. She was killed by a lightning strike which the locals believe was the work of Shango, a god who'll become far more angrier if anyone touches the woman, and so Leafy has to arrange for a special ceremony before the corpse can be taken away. This is no easy task, and it takes days due to the freakish cause of Innocence's death. Meanwhile, he's also contending with a gonorrhea infection, is juggling all the drama stirred up by his relationships with three very different women, and gets caught up in the nation's dirty politics when he's blackmailed into bribing a respectable doctor. He's comically miserable for most of the book and, for endless reasons, either dislikes or loathes most of the people in his day-to-day life. I thought the novel was good, and also humorous until Leafy's circumstances turn dire towards the end. I couldn't tell if Boyd had intended for those last chapters to be on some level as amusing as the earlier parts or just sad, or a jarring combination of the two. Boyd, who grew up in Western Africa, also wrote Brazzaville Beach (1990), which is set in Africa as well. This one I enjoyed more than A Good Man in Africa, which was his first novel. He's an entertaining storyteller, and his writing is a bit like Graham Greene's. His 2002 novel, Any Human Heart, got lots of great reviews, so I've added it to my list of books to read.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jane Watson

    Well, I think you can possibly tell that this is William Boyd's first book - it is very well written, but just too long and a touch boring in places alas. It reads more like a short story with a lot of padding and how they managed to stretch it to a film I have no idea! The main character is not particularly likeable, (certainly no Sean Connery, who is pictured on the front of my copy!) although I felt sorry for him at the end and some of the loose ends weren't really tied up either which was a Well, I think you can possibly tell that this is William Boyd's first book - it is very well written, but just too long and a touch boring in places alas. It reads more like a short story with a lot of padding and how they managed to stretch it to a film I have no idea! The main character is not particularly likeable, (certainly no Sean Connery, who is pictured on the front of my copy!) although I felt sorry for him at the end and some of the loose ends weren't really tied up either which was a pity. Obviously Boyd knows his Africa and some of the insights were interesting and you could certainly imagine the heat, dust, insects, etc through his description. I found it slightly amusing in places but not laugh out loud funny, although maybe that's just me. Will certainly read all the other books he has written that I haven't read yet and I am sure with each one he gets better and better.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Andrea Irvin

    Having worked in "Kinjanja" for nine years, I am sure that I experienced this book quite differently than most readers would. For me it was a good read, and I definitely found the hapless Morgan's plight funny at times, as each "mistake" and attempt to correct it lead to worse and worse outcomes. At the same time, it reflects many serious themes to do with development, sovereignty, corruption, and exploitation among others. (view spoiler)[I thought that it might end a bit differently, with Morga Having worked in "Kinjanja" for nine years, I am sure that I experienced this book quite differently than most readers would. For me it was a good read, and I definitely found the hapless Morgan's plight funny at times, as each "mistake" and attempt to correct it lead to worse and worse outcomes. At the same time, it reflects many serious themes to do with development, sovereignty, corruption, and exploitation among others. (view spoiler)[I thought that it might end a bit differently, with Morgan escaping his apparently unavoidable fate through a military coup that sent everyone home for reassignment, but it was left up in the air. (hide spoiler)] William Boyd is an author whose books I have unfailingly enjoyed, so it was interesting to see how much his style and approach to plot has changed since this, his first book (now almost 40 years old), which is much slower in its plot and more character driven than many of his newer books. Overall, very interesting and enjoyable for me.

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