Former Suffolk resident and local reporter writes her second novel
By James Thomas Jr.
Jun 13, 2016
Former Suffolk resident and Hampton Roads journalist Nancy Stancill has woven another tale of murder, suspense and enough bizarre politics that in light of today’s political climate might leave readers pondering, “What if?”
Stancill, an investigative reporter turned novelist has penned “Winning Texas,” a sequel to her debut tale, “Saving Texas” and includes several of the same characters, settings and locations.
In the new plot, fictional Houston Times investigative reporter Annie Price is now an editor and gets a chance to get back on the street when one of her reporters is murdered. Probing the whodunit leads Annie away from the familiar themes of Texas oil, wealthy families and sprawling city metropolis and into the underworld of illegal gambling, strip joints and a human smuggling ring.
Additional plot twists include a political tug-of-war to turn the Texas Hill Country into an enclave for German-Texans and a growing secessionist movement, a true-to-life recurrent theme in Texas politics.
Secession has been a part of Texas politics for years, Stancill said, an idea she decided to include in her books following comments she heard from former governor Rick Perry several years ago.
“He said, in effect, if Texas didn’t like how the federal government treated the state it could leave,” Stancill said. “Texas has always had a secessionist movement, of sorts, primarily because it was a republic for about 10 years after winning its freedom from Mexico.”
More reality is woven into Stancill’s “Winning Texas” in her portrayal of the financial challenges facing the fictional daily but also mirrors what many newspapers are experiencing today. Staff cuts and job insecurities contribute to Annie’s worsening drinking problems and unstable romantic relationships.
Stancill uses the day-by-day dedication and frustration of staffers on a big city daily as a backdrop for her novels. There is joy, angst and also risk, she said. As an investigative reporter in Houston for 15 years, she was a target of threats both real and implied.
“One time I was looking into the financial dealings of a community college, and they put out wanted posters for me,” she said. “They wanted to know when I was on campus and be notified about it.
“When you’re writing about things that people don’t want you to write about, there’s always an element of danger.”
Stancill’s parents moved to Suffolk from Radford when she was about 20 years old and attending the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, she said. She got her first newspaper job in Suffolk and later moved on to a daily in Newport News.
She moved to California with her husband, Len Norman, while he attended Stanford University and later to Houston when he took a job for a major bank. Stancill’s mother is still a Suffolk resident. She also has a sister living in Smithfield.
Stancill has lived in Charlotte, North Carolina, since 1993. After publication of her first novel, she was guest at a joint meeting of Suffolk’s Sans Souci Literary Club and the Tuesday Afternoon Book Club.
She’s been invited to return in 2016, she said and, perhaps, with completion of another novel, she will.
“I’ve set up another to have a trilogy,” she said. “Ideally, it’ll be the third book about Annie. There’s room for a third book.”
James Thomas Jr., [email protected]