Living in London in 2010, journalist Nancy Stancill decided it was time to devote herself to a project she’d mulled for more than 20 years: a novel about the provincial, slightly psychotic world of Texas politics.
“I thought, ‘You know, I’m just going to not work, have fun, travel, do ladies’ lunches and things like that,’” Stancill said recently in her Charlotte home. “And I did that for about six months … but I had this book on my mind, and I felt it was really something I had to do.”
The result is a thriller, “Saving Texas,” about a reporter for the fictional Houston Times who uncovers – and gets herself snared in – a web of Lone Star State intrigue involving a charismatic Texan separatist; a West Texas community college that’s doing more than granting degrees in HVAC technology; a charming state senator in cowboy boots; and a surprising amount of what one character refers to as “rumpy-pumpy.” (There’s nothing pornographic, just a lot of fades to black.)
Stancill, a former Charlotte Observer reporter and editor and sister of Jane Stancill of The N&O, spent three years off and on writing “Saving Texas,” finishing a draft before she and her husband returned to Charlotte. Black Rose Writing published the novel in October.
She’ll be reading from “Saving Texas” at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Quail Ridge Books & Music in Raleigh.
The novel is her first serious attempt at fiction. “My brain was always fried by journalism,” she said, explaining why she didn’t try sooner. “You hear that old adage, ‘When one door closes, another one opens.’ For sure, it was true for me.”
“Saving Texas” – the first book of a planned trilogy – has received some positive notices, mainly in Texas.
Stancill, 64, the daughter of a Virginia newspaper editor and publisher, framed the story within a subject she knows well: the newspaper industry.
The protagonist, Annie Price, laments the loss of experienced reporters to public relations jobs and has to persuade her editors to spend the money to send her across the state on assignment.
Strong, hard-hitting, local investigative reporting is still what Stancill thinks newspapers can and should devote resources to. That’s one reason why she plans to donate the proceeds from the first 1,000 books sold to the Columbia, Mo.-based nonprofit Investigative Reporters and Editors, of which Stancill is a former board member. “That’s a cause,” she said, “that will always be important to me.”