The novel’s title refers to its main character, Henry Wilt. Wilt is a demoralized and professionally under-rated assistant lecturer who teaches literature to uninterested construction apprentices at a community college in the south of England. Years of hen-pecking and harassment by his physically powerful but emotionally immature wife Eva leave Henry Wilt with dreams of killing her in various gruesome ways. But a string of unfortunate events (including one involving an inflatable plastic female doll) start the title character on a farcical journey. Along the way he finds humiliation and chaos, which ultimately lead him to discover his own strengths and some level of dignity. And all the while he is pursued by the tenacious police inspector Flint, whose plodding skills of detection and deduction interpret Wilt’s often bizarre actions as heinous crimes.
The Wilt Alternative
Henry Wilt is no longer the victim of his own uncontrolled fantasies. As Head of a reconstituted Liberal Studies Department he has assumed power without authority at the Fenland College of Arts & Technology and the fantasies he now confronts are those of political bigots and reactionary bureaucrats – in addition to his wife’s enthusiasm for every Organic Alternative under the compost heap and the insistence of his quadruplets on looking at every problem with an unflinching lack of sentimentality.
It is only when Wilt becomes the unintentional participant in a terrorist siege that he is forced to find an answer to the problems of power, which have corrupted greater men than he. With a mental ingenuity born of his innate cowardice, Wilt fights for those liberal values which are threatened both by international terrorism and by the sophisticated methods of police anti-terrorist agents. In the confusion that follows, Wilt resumes his dialogue with the unflagging Inspector Flint and is himself subjected to the indignity of a psycho-political profile.