June 24, 2014
D.G. Martin in the Herald Sun
“Saving Texas” and forgetting about Scotland
How does Harry Potter feel about the hotly contested proposal to separate Scotland from the United Kingdom
Edinburgh-based author J.K. Rowling, who created Harry Potter, opposes the proposal. She donated one million pounds to an organization fighting the proposal, which comes to a vote this fall. She worries that Scottish universities would lose funding for important research if Scotland were independent.
Other opponents of independence point out a variety of problems that Scotland would face. What kind of currency would it use? How would it manage its defense? Could it be a member of NATO and the European Union? What would be the impact on its universities? Would the Scots living in England and the English living in Scotland have to choose which country would be their homeland?
It is a complicated and interesting situation. But why should North Carolinians care?
Remember that North Carolina and Scotland share a common heritage. A good reminder comes this fall when UNC Press releases “Wayfaring Strangers: The Musical Voyage from Scotland and Ulster to Appalachia” by Doug Orr and Fiona Richie.
Remember that we also separated from Great Britain ourselves almost 230 years ago. Scottish immigrants in North Carolina fought on both sides during our Revolutionary War, divided on the separation question just like today’s Scots.
Then, 150 years ago, North Carolinians and other southerners tried to separate from the United States, ironically adopting a battle flag with a St. Andrew’s cross, similar in design to the Scottish flag.
Even today, as North Carolina rejects national programs like Common Core and expanded Medicaid, there is a light breeze of independence stirring.
But our light breeze of discontent is nothing like Texas. We do not have active major political leaders making careless pro-secessionist-sounding remarks like those of Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Even though Perry never seriously advocated Texas secession, he winked at the idea, and paid a price for it in his unsuccessful 2012 presidential campaign.
Possible Texas secession is a serious underpinning of a new novel, “Saving Texas, by Charlotte writer Nancy Stancill, a former reporter at The Houston Chronicle and The Charlotte Observer.
Along with secession, Stancill uses murder, assassination plots, illegal militia, higher education fraud, Mexican drug kingpins, newsroom competition and backstabbing, adulterous sex and travel through the vast reaches of Texas from Dallas, Houston and Austin to the dry country of West Texas. All this keeps us turning the pages until her reporter heroine brings down a plot to win control of Texas government and lead the state out of the union.
Annie Price, a reporter for the fictional Houston Times, writes a profile of Tom Marr, a West Texas rancher who is planning a campaign for governor. While interviewing Marr about his platform and secessionist platform, the two develop a strong attraction for each other, a complication that spices up the remainder of the story.
Meanwhile, Marr’s two closest friends are using a community college to steal money from the Texas and federal governments to fund Marr’s campaign and to recruit and train a private militia. One of Marr’s friends hires, and loves, a beautiful and accomplished Peruvian assassin who, with creativity and precision, gets rid of the group’s enemies.
It is no spoiler to tell you that in the end, the good guys win. Sort of. The bad guys are still alive and could come back to cause more trouble should Stancill decide to write a sequel.
In the meantime, thanks to Nancy Stancill for clearing my mind. While I was flipping the pages of her mesmerizing book, I did not worry one bit about Scotland leaving the United Kingdom.
D.G. Martin hosts “North Carolina Bookwatch,” which airs Sundays at noon and Thursdays at 5 p.m. on UNC-TV.