Though they live together, they are unmarried, and to add further scandal, she is a former prostitute and he is a hit man for hire. One day, while he's "at work " a young stranger shows up and begins accosting the woman. The Ruffian On The Stair comes from the beginning of Orton's brief period of public acclaim, and three years before he died in 1967.
Wilson, the ruffian, pushes himself into the apartment against Joyce's objections. Mike, the husband, appears completely unsympathetic to her concerns. Ruffian on the Stair was Nina Bawden's last novel published in 2001 four years before her book Dear Austen, the letter she wrote to her husband Austen Kark who was killed in the Potter's Bar rail crash in 2002, when Nina Bawden was badly injured. The Ruffian on the Stair is a story of family secrets, but not just one family.