Many different cultural and historical threads intersect in David Grann’s outstanding work of investigative history, “Killers of the Flower Moon.” The rich combination of subjects, page-turning story and quality writing makes this book an excellent choice this year for One Read, Daniel Boone Regional Library’s community-wide reading program.
“Killers of the Flower Moon” is about a little-known chapter in American history when members of the Osage Nation ranked among the wealthiest people per capita in the world. The discovery of oil beneath the Oklahoma land where they had been relocated led to immense wealth. But, by the 1920s, the tribe had suffered a series of mysterious deaths and outright murders that attracted the attention of a nascent FBI. Grann traces the course of the investigation and uncovers further information about this dark episode in American history. If you have already read and enjoyed Grann’s book, the following titles might interest you as well.
Grann’s other books are a good place to start. They are all exemplary works of narrative nonfiction that explore mysteries, crimes or hidden worlds. “The Devil and Sherlock Holmes” is a collection of 12 magazine pieces about an elderly bank robber, a French con artist, the elusive giant squid and more. In “The Lost City of Z,” Grann researches and retraces Percy Fawcett’s 1925 quest for a rumored city in the Amazon. “The White Darkness,” which comes out in October, is about a man’s attempts to travel across Antarctica to outdo his idol, the explorer Ernest Shackleton.
Just as the effects of oil discovery were pivotal to “Killers of the Flower Moon,” the cycle of oil booms and busts play a significant role in Bryan Mealer’s “The Kings of Big Spring: God, Oil, and One Family’s Search for the American Dream.” This multigenerational story of the author’s family reads like a thumbnail history of 20th century Texas. “Great American Outpost: Dreamers, Mavericks, and the Making of an Oil Frontier” by Maya Rao is a firsthand account of the recent oil boom in North Dakota. When the largest domestic oil discovery in fifty years transformed the state, Rao joined a wave of people chasing the boom and observed the dramatic changes that occurred.
If you want further exploits of G-men (and, eventually, women), read “The FBI: A History” by Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones for a chronological tour of operations, policies and controversies surrounding one of our central domestic law enforcement bodies. “Enemies: A History of the FBI” by Tim Weiner is another exhaustive history of the organization. The Pulitzer Prize-winning author shares revelations about the creation of the bureau, its tense relationships with presidents and conflicts between national security needs and rights to personal liberty.
For “The Unquiet Grave: The FBI and the Struggle for the Soul of Indian Country” author Steve Hendricks acquired thousands of documents about the suspicious death of a leader of the American Indian Movement in 1976. He discovered vigilantism and conspiracies in response to activists’ efforts to address neglect and mistreatment. “Rez Life: An Indian’s Journey Through Reservation Life” by David Treuer combines his personal narrative with a history of reservations, including treaty rights and mandatory Indian boarding schools.
Propelling the narrative of “Killers of the Flower Moon” is the mystery of the murders and their investigation. This puts the book in the genre of true crime while the writing style and depth of historical research make it a standout. “Beneath a Ruthless Sun” by Gilbert King is another exceptional true crime book about the rape of the wife of a citrus baron in 1957. Research into the aftermath of the crime unspools a circuitous story about class, race and miscarriage of justice in the Jim Crow South. I’d also suggest “The Feather Thief: Beauty, Obsession, and the Natural History Heist of the Century” by Kirk W. Johnson. This fascinating story about the theft of rare birds from the British Natural History Museum reveals an underground world of obsessive fly-tiers who need rare feathers for their fishing lures.
I hope these books will sustain you until September when you can explore the topics and themes in “Killers of the Flower Moon” through discussions, art and other programs culminating in a visit from David Grann on September 25. For more information visit www.oneread.org.