“Slipping,” a darkly comic novel about to be published by Dalkey Archive Press at the University of Houston-Victoria, recently received a coveted starred review from a national book review magazine.
Kirkus Reviews gave “Slipping” by John Toomey a Kirkus Star, which it awards to books of exceptional merit. The book will be available March 24.
“Kirkus is used by people in the book business and also serious readers to gauge a book in advance of publication,” said Jake Snyder, Dalkey Archive Press associate director. “A starred review by Kirkus usually means increased sales for the book.”
“Slipping” is about Albert Jackson, a delusional middle-aged school teacher who murders his wife, Valerie. Incarcerated after his crime, Jackson provides a recorded first-person confession to a local novelist, Charlie Vaughan, and asks him to write a novel about the murder. The story includes witness accounts about the events leading up to the murder and a strange third-person account written by Jackson himself.
The novel starts with Vaughan receiving the confession: “It came via an unsolicited and unmarked parcel. Left under the cover of darkness. Hand-delivered to my doorstep but not to my person. Enclosed: a covering note; the audio recording; and a roughly constructed though typed transcript, telling of a man’s life and of a crime. Not the kind of thing one ought to be greeted with of a morning.”
Kirkus Reviews described the novel as a whodunit where the reader knows the “who” up front and then learns about the “how” and the “why” of the murder.
“Toomey is aiming to do more than solve a mystery and achieves a psychologically intriguing, unnerving character study,” the review stated.
Snyder compared “Slipping” to another Dalkey book, “Inquisitory” by Robert Pinget, and said Irish author Toomey’s writing is deceptively simple.
“While he doesn’t embellish with luxurious prose or engage in a lot of experimentation, there are several layers of meaning in John’s work,” Snyder said. “Most of it is what is written in between the lines.”
Toomey said a sentence he typed on the computer was the inspiration for “Slipping.” “It wasn’t that I didn’t love her,” he typed.
“Then I left it alone, but there was enough there to keep bringing me back to it, and during the course of six or eight months, I found I had a body of words, an emerging story, and a character, a voice,” he said.
Toomey was born in 1975 in Dublin, where he now teaches English at Clonkeen College. He is the author of two other novels published by Dalkey. Those are “Sleepwalker, published in 2010 in the U.S., United Kingdom and Ireland, and the 2012 novel “Huddleston Road.”
Toomey said he was delighted that “Slipping” got a Kirkus Star.
“I had more or less discounted any possibility of gaining recognition or praise or affirmation from any credible source,” he said. “So the idea of a starred Kirkus review was beyond all expectations.”
Jeffrey Di Leo, dean of the UHV School of Arts & Sciences, also was happy to hear the news.
“I am glad that ‘Slipping’ is generating positive buzz,” he said. “When one of the Dalkey authors is successful, it is good for both the press and the university.”
Dalkey is an internationally renowned nonprofit literary organization that moved its publishing operations to UHV in 2015. The press publishes about 60 books a year with an emphasis on translations from more than 50 countries.
Last summer, Dalkey began offering its Applied Literary Translation certificate at UHV. Those who go through the program have their book-length translation published by Dalkey. They also complete 12 credit hours toward a UHV Master of Fine Arts in creative writing or Master of Science in publishing.
“Slipping” will be available in Victoria for $15 at the UHV Center for the Arts, 204 N. Main St., and Dalkey Archive Press, 3402 N. Ben Wilson St. It also may be purchased through the Dalkey website at www.dalkeyarchive.com and other online book sources.