May 23, 2017

David Grann ~ Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders & the Birth of the FBI

"Killers of the Flower Moon" by David Grann involves an absolutely mind boggling true-events story about a series of murders of members of the Osage Indian Nation. The book is a tale of lands and money stolen from Native Americans by the United States Government and Big Oil, and their cultures destroyed. It also chronicles the first major case of the fledgling FBI (images reproduced from the book).  

New Yorker staff writer David Grann
Photo: Matthew Richman

In the 1920s, the richest people per capita in the world were members of the Osage Indian Nation in Oklahoma. After oil was discovered beneath their land, the Osage rode in chauffeured automobiles, built mansions, and sent their children to study in Europe. 

Osage representatives with President Coolidge at the White House in 1924. 
Photograph: Bettmann/Getty Images       

Then, one by one, they began to be killed off. One Osage woman, Mollie Burkhart, watched as her family was murdered. Her older sister was shot. Her mother was then slowly poisoned. And it was just the beginning, as more Osage began to die under mysterious circumstances. “This land is saturated with blood,” said Mary Jo Webb, an Osage Indian still alive today.  
The book’s title, "Killers of the Flower Moon", is a metaphorical reference to what the Osage call the prairie’s gigantic “flower-killing moon”, which occurs in May when taller, aggressive plants snuff out tinier blooming flowers.    

Mollie Burkhart (second from right) lost all three of her sisters under suspicious circumstances. 
Rita Smith (left) died in an explosion, Anna Brown (second from left) was shot in the head and Minnie Smith (right) died of what doctors referred to as a "peculiar wasting illness."
The Osage National Museum/Courtesy of Doubleday 

Three members of the Osage tribe who met death in suspicious circumstances: 
Henry Roan, Lizzie Q. and Charles Whitehorn. Bettmann/Getty Images 

Ernest and Mollie Burkhart married in 1917. 
Unbeknownst to Mollie, a member of the Osage tribe
the marriage was part of a larger plot to steal her family's oil wealth.
Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoman Collection/Courtesy of Doubleday

The story follows the entrance of Tom Bruce White, Sr. who was an agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigation at the time under J. Edgar Hoover.    

photographer unknown
photo restoration by Styrous®

Previous investigators had failed or had been murdered in pursuit of the killers. It was the agency's first major case, and a young J. Edgar Hoover wanted it solved. Hoover needed the sturdiest and most incorruptible of agents to head up the investigation. He chose Tom White, from Texas. White’s father was the local sheriff in Austin, so he grew up in a home attached to the county jail. He and two brothers eventually became Texas Rangers.     

Looking for a more stable life, White became an F.B.I. agent. With a team he assembled, White went undercover, infiltrated the Osage world and exposed the reasons for the murders and who the murderers were. 

Mr. Grann writes a brilliant and spellbinding story. Thus, when White and his men solve the crime, and the mastermind behind the murders is revealed, it is a complete surprise.   

There is in-depth coverage by Jon D. May about the conspiracy and results of the investigation by the FBI on the Oklahoma Historical Society website (link below).  

The case was so high profile, it was even featured in a 1959 movie starring Jimmy Stewart, "The FBI Story."  According to Deadline Hollywood, there are plans to do an Eric Roth film adaptation of "Killers of the Flower Moon". Mentioned for the film are Martin Scorsese, Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro.

The book has even managed to make it onto the Book of the Month Club, which is a United States subscription-based e-commerce service that offers a selection of five new hardcover books each month to its members. 

David Grann ~ "Killers of the Flower Moon"
photo by Styrous®

Published by PenguinRandomhouse
April 20, 2017    
ISBN-13: 978-0385534246         
Net links:   
Working with David Grann on the "Killers of the Flower Moon"    
David Grann ~ Travis Smiley PBS Interview                  

"Killers of the Flower Moon" reviews:                  
Washington Post ~ David Grann solves outrages against native Americans on Osage lands             
The Rollng Stone ~ Inside David Grann's New True-Crime Epic By Sean Woods                
NPR ~ In The 1920s, A Community Conspired To Kill Native Americans For Their Oil Money                        
USA Today ~ 'Killers of the Flower Moon': How oil riches led to murder      
Oklahoms’a Own ~ Revisiting The "Reign Of Terror" On The Osage Nation        
Oklahoma Historical Society ~ Osage Murders     
Book of the Month Club ~ Black Gold and Black Souls--A True Story of Murders & Mayhem   
Book sources:                
Abbey’s Bookshop        
Boomerang Books        

“History is a merciless judge.”
                 - David Grann

Styrous® ~ Tuesday, May 23, 2017 

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