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Killers of the Flower Moon

Killers of the Flower Moon

Book Review - Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann

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If Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI had been a work of fiction, I would have criticized the author for packing the book with too many ideas, too many outrageous twists, and the overall improbability of the story. But David Grann's book is not a work a fiction, it is, in fact, a true story. Which leaves me little to criticize and much to learn about the Osage Murders.

If you're like me, and most Americans, you probably haven't heard of the Osage Murders. In the 1920s the Osage Indians were the richest people per capita (in the world) due to the oil beneath their land. In a greedy attempt to get a piece of that wealth, dozens (if not hundreds) of Osage were murdered for their headrights (often hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars...in the 1920s.) The FBI were sent in to investigate due to the sweeping corruption across all facets of society including the doctors, bankers, and government officials. It was a mess. And a tragedy for nearly every Osage family, who had at least one member killed.

In several parts of the book a movie produced in 1959 entitled The FBI Story was mentioned. At first mention, quoted below, I stopped reading to watch the film, which can be rented for about $3 on iTunes or purchased here.

In the late 1950s, White learned that Hollywood was about to shoot a movie, The FBI Story, starring James Stewart as a crime-busting agent, that would feature a segment on the murders of the Osage.
— Killers of the Flower Moon

White is the FBI agent who was sent by J. Edgar Hoover to lead the investigation of the murders. In a letter to J. Edgar Hoover, White offered to provide information to the filmmakers about the case, but Hoover never followed up. Perhaps if he had, the movie would have more accurately portrayed the murders and investigation. Although the movie was popular, it did little to keep the Osage Murders in American memory. If you can get past the 1950s production value and the cheesy acting that was so prominent in this time, the movie is worth viewing. I think it is important to keep in mind, while watching it, the following quote from the book which describes how one decedent of one of the victims recalls the film,

She said that occasionally The FBI Story would air on local television, and she and her family would watch it and cry.
— Killers of the Flower Moon

I'm a huge fan of narrative nonfiction, I think it does wonders bringing to light some of our lost history and making it accessible to those who think they don't like learning about history. If you enjoyed The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson, then you should pick up your copy of Killers of the Flower Moon.

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The Dressing-Room, Madame Hessel Reading at Amfréville | 1906 | Edouard Vuillard

The Dressing-Room, Madame Hessel Reading at Amfréville | 1906 | Edouard Vuillard

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