Reading Matters

Nancy Stancill’s latest a twisty Texas thriller

You hold your breath when a friend writes a book.

Will I like it? What if I don’t? What can I say that’s supportive but non-committal?

The Pulitzer-winning novelist Peter Taylor once said he couldn’t be friends with someone whose work he didn’t like. I’m not sure I’d go that far, but there are risks.

Well, whew! I happen to really like Nancy Stancill’s latest novel, “Winning Texas.” Stancill is a good friend and former Observer colleague, and she’s given us a taut thriller with a rabbit warren of twists. It’s a newspaper novel, set in Houston, where Stancill once worked as an investigative reporter.

Oh, sure, there are a couple of dead bodies. But Stancill goes beyond the whodonit to a world of frenzied intrigue. Hers is a Texas where one group plots to secede and form an independent nation, and another group longs to turn the Hill Country into German Texas. Add to that, a group of Albanian strippers herded off to an isolated ranch, where they are to produce babies for the wealthy.

Stancill’s tireless hero, investigative reporter/editor Annie Price, makes you wish you were 40 again.

Stancill will talk about “Winning Texas” at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Park Road Books. It’s free, and you’re invited.