In the figure of Morgan Leafy, a hapless British diplomat struggling to master the complexities of his posting to a corrupt west African country (the fictional Kinjanja), Boyd echoes the post-war formula of Angry Young Men. His bumbling, gauche, but ultimately sympathetic protagonist, Morgan Leafy pursues his love interest through a series of career crises and ham-fisted sexual encounters, 'an aristocrat of pain and frustration, a prince of anguish and embarrassment', until he eventually regains his girl, and his self-respect, against all the odds of his situation.
Boyd’s first novel also hints at his sensitivity to Africa as a continent bedeviled by poverty, exploitation and misguided foreign interference. His portrait no doubt builds on his own childhood experiences in Ghana, something he discusses in the autobiographical essay included in Protobiography (1998). Though perpetually self-absorbed, Leafy nonetheless registers the misery and decrepitude of his surroundings in the overpopulated capital of Nkongsamba: "Set in undulating tropical rain forest, from the air it resembled nothing so much as a giant pool of vomit on somebody’s expansive unmown lawn."
While the plot of A Good Man is driven by a comedy of diplomatic manners, the novel also conveys the heat, sweat, and endless frustrations of a crumbling post-imperial system, with the chaos of a continent throwing into relief a legacy of British incompetence.