Morgan Leafy works for the Deputy High Commissioner Fanshawe in Nkongsamba, capital of the mid-west region of the Western African country of Kinjama. When we meet Leafy, he is festering with rage - hatred for the hot, humid, dead-end place he has been posted to for the last few years, simmering resentment for his junior colleague Dickie Dalmire, a thoroughly pleasant plummy Ox/bridge graduate who has swanned in and impressed both Fanshawe and his daughter Priscilla on whom Leafy had designs, and impotent teeth-grinding fury at the dour Scottish university doctor Murray whose dry professionalism thwarts Leafy's sense of entitlement and attempts to slide under various official gates. Leafy is a hilarious character, as funny in his boiling, exploding fury as Basil Fawlty. He is selfish, jealous and covetous yet he is a fascinating character. The book is far more light-hearted and unamibitious than Boyd's later novels but the familiar Boyd wit and eloquence and strong, vivid characterisation are evident, making this a riotously funny comedy of errors pitched halfway between the sharp, innocent drolery of PG Wodehouse and the more lecherous romping laughs of Kingsley Amis. Unlike Kingsley's protagonists, though, the reader gets the impression that Boyd recognises the faults of his hero and doesn't condone them. Intriguingly, Boyd has said that the crisp man of few words characterisation of Murray was based on Boyd's father, who was also a doctor in Africa.
A great light read.