This weekend I attended the West Virginia Book Festival in Charleston. They had several good authors speaking, including master storyteller David Grann. In fact, I made the two hour pilgrimage to West Virginia’s capitol city just to see Mr. Grann.
He has written a number of books but his “Killers of the Flower Moon” is one of the best pieces of nonfiction I’ve read in many years so I really had to go hear him speak.
And I’m so glad I did.
He gave a nice presentation, complete with beautiful black and white photos to support the narrative. He even shared some materials not used in the book.
I don’t want to spoil the mystery for you but the book explores the story of those members of the Osage Indian Nation who were murdered by greedy, corrupt white men in the 1920s. The Osage money came from oil rights and members of the Osage community were millionaires many times over. In fact, they were the richest people per capita in the world at the time.
Since racism toward Native Americans prevailed in America, no one really cared that an entire community of people was being systematically killed off – another instance in a long line of reasons to be ashamed of how we have treated people in this country.
The author spent years researching this story, getting to know descendants of parties involved and embracing the Pawhuska, Oklahoma community where the events took place. His work also pieced together the early days of the FBI and how this case caused J. Edgar Hoover’s men to embrace modern and creative investigation techniques to make progress in the case.
The story is broken down into three parts – told from the perspective of the Osage, from that of the investigators and finally, in the author’s voice. It is a beautiful piece of nonfiction that I’m not adequately describing (I’m not a book reviewer and never claimed to be, friends). However, I hope you’ll take my word for it when I say this book is worth your time.
While there I also picked up a copy of “The Old Man and the Gun” which is now a motion picture that I’m dying to go see. He graciously signed both that and my first edition of “The Killers of the Flower Moon.”
The event included a number of other speakers, lots of activities for the kids, a giant used book sale and many vendors representing publishers from across the region. It was a book lover’s paradise! Admission was free and parking cost just $3.
I would absolutely go back.
I love to meet people who create something and to hear them talk about the story behind the story. It doesn’t get much better than hearing a writer speak about what motivates them to write and about what went into bringing their ideas to life. I thanked him for telling the stories that he does. After all, he’s calling attention to stories and injustices that history has all but forgotten.
Incidentally, if you’re not a reader, Mr. Grann says that Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio are adapting this book into a movie.