of the Flower Moon" author David Grann gives an OKC Town Hall
lecture Feb. 20 at Church of the Servant, 14343 N. MacArthur
Blvd., in Oklahoma City. Nate Billings/The Oklahoman
OKLAHOMA CITY Before he started working on his award-winning
true-crime novel "Killers of the Flower Moon," David Grann had never
seen a prairie before.
Since the 2018 publication of his No. 1 New York Times best-seller
and National Book Award finalist, the New York-based author and
journalist has made numerous pilgrimages back to the Sooner State.
"Oklahoma's become my home away from home. I think I'm here more
than anywhere else other than in New York," the Connecticut native
said last week prior to speaking on the Oklahoma City Town Hall
"When I wrote the book, part of it was to hopefully make sure that
this history is part of our consciousness. Because for so many people
and I include myself we had essentially excised this
very important history. So, being back in Oklahoma and sharing that
history, continuing to do that, is really important me."
Winner of the Edgar Allan Poe Award for best true-crime book, "Killers
of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI"
chronicles the mysterious slayings of numerous Osage Nation citizens
in 1920s Oklahoma, where the fledgling FBI, led by J. Edgar Hoover,
embarked on one of its first major homicide investigations.
When he penned the book, Grann said he couldn't be sure it would
find a wide audience.
"I thought it was an important part of our history. The fact that
it has struck a chord, I think, is a great thing and an important
thing, not because of the book but just because of this history,"
"The Osage, I always say they know their history intimately. They
know this part of their history; they know what happened. But there
were far too many of us who didn't. Here in Oklahoma and across
the country, this was not something that was taught. It was not
part of my schooling."
He said the effects of what was called the "Reign of Terror" are
still keenly felt in Osage County.
"One of the things I did during the research for the book was I
tracked down descendants and I tracked down descendants of
both the victims and the murderers. And many of them still live
in the same neighborhoods, side by side," Grann said. "One of the
people I interviewed and spent time with was Margie Burkhart, who
is the granddaughter of Mollie, who I write a lot about in the book,
whose family had been killed one by one. ... Margie took me out
to the graveyard where so many of her family members who were murdered
were buried, and it was talking to her and to others that you realize
that this is still living history."
OKC Town Hall President Bill Price praised Grann for bringing the
tragic chapter of Oklahoma's past to light.
"It was a huge conspiracy and really horrible story," Price said.
"David Grann is to be a commended for writing such a wonderful book
and doing such great research."
In November, Grann released his latest nonfiction book, "The White
Darkness," about British Army officer, family man and explorer Henry
Worsley, who became obsessed with 19th-century polar explorer Ernest
But interest remains high in "Killers of the Flower Moon," especially
since Academy Award-winning director Martin Scorsese is adapting
it into a movie starring two of his frequent collaborators, Oscar-winning
actors Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro.
Principal photography is anticipated to begin this summer in the
Sooner State on the high-profile project, which is expected to usher
in a new era of filmmaking in Oklahoma.
"I think it's so great that they're going to be filming here, that
they've had auditions for the Osage and for other Native American
actors to be a part of it," Grann said.
A staff writer for The New Yorker magazine, his articles and books
have previously been turned into the films "The Old Man & the
Gun," "Trial by Fire," "The Lost City of Z" and "Dark Crimes." Grann
said the process is both scary and exciting.
"When you write a book, you kind of control it. I control each
verb and each adverb. I own each mistake. If you hate the book,
it's on me; if you like the book, it's on me. But when people are
developing your story, you're separate from that. My hope always
is to try to get it into the hands of people who know what they're
doing, who care. I feel ... with the 'Killers of the Flower Moon'
that it is in the hands of people who do seem to really care about
getting it right," Grann said.
"A book reaches so many people, but hopefully, with a movie, we
will reach even more with this story."