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.
- Henry Wilt
- Eva Wilt
- Inspector Flint
- Sergeant Yates
- Sally Pringsheim
- Gaskell Pringsheim
- Mr. Morris, Head of Liberal Studies
- Peter Braintree, lecturer in English
- Dr. Board
- Dr. Mayfield
- Reverend St. John Froude
- In 1989 the novel was adapted for the film Wilt (titled The Misadventures of Mr. Wilt in North America).
- The book was released in two audiobook formats: abridged by HarperCollins Audio Books and read by Andrew Sachs (ISBN 0001046705), and unabridged by ISIS Audio Books and read by Nigel Graham (ISBN 1856955257).
Several sequels and additional works featuring Henry Wilt were written by Tom Sharpe. These include:
- The Wilt Alternative (1979)
- Wilt on High (1985)
- Wilt Omnibus (1996 collection of the first three Wilt novels)
- Wilt in Nowhere (2004)
- The Wilt Inheritance (2010)