Publication date 1981
Dewey Decimal 823/.914 22
Publisher Hamish Hamilton
Originally published 1981
Page count 256
Genres Satire, Fiction, Novel
|Awards Whitbread First Novel Award
Somerset Maugham Award|
Adaptations A Good Man in Africa (1994)
Similar William Boyd books, Africa books, Novels
A Good Man in Africa is the first novel by William Boyd, published in 1981. It won both the Whitbread Book Award for a first novel and the Somerset Maugham Award that year.
Morgan Leafy is First Secretary to the British Deputy High Commission in Nkongsamba in the fictional West African country of Kinjanja. Leafy's life is becoming increasingly problematic: he is being blackmailed by a local politician, his plan to fix the forthcoming elections has come unstuck, and a coup is looming. In his personal life he has contracted gonorrhea from Hazel, his black mistress who is cheating on him, while Priscilla, his boss's daughter on whom Leafy has lustful ambitions, has just got engaged to his hated underling. To complete his woes Priscilla's father is threatening to dismiss him unless he can dispose of a corpse that has been left to rot in the sun in accordance with tribal laws.
Morgan Leafy also appears in two short stories, "Next Boat from Douala" and "The Coup" which concern his departure from Africa. The stories appear in the collection On the Yankee Station, published later in 1981, but as Boyd explained in an interview the collection was actually written before the novel, though Boyd claimed he had written both when he sent the collection to potential publishers. Hamish Hamilton agreed to publish the novel (as yet unwritten) and collection in that order, Boyd admits "So I said to my new editor, Christopher Sinclair-Stevenson, 'Look, the manuscript is in a shocking state, I just need a couple of months to knock into shape’, and I sat down and wrote A Good Man in Africa in a white heat of dynamic endeavour in three months at my kitchen table.
William Boyd grew up in Western Africa, living in both Ghana and Nigeria. He explains that the setting for the novel "is completely set in Ibadan in Western Nigeria even though I changed the names, but everybody in it is made up. It’s rooted in my autobiography in terms of its colour, texture and smells but the story is – and that’s something that’s always been the case with me - invented. There is an autobiographical element in that the character of Dr Murray is very much a two-dimensional portrait of my father."
In 1994 the novel was made into a film of the same name, with a script written by Boyd.