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'Killers Of The Flower Moon' Author Says Film Adaptation In The Right Hands
by Brandy McDonnell - The Oklahoman
"Killers 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 Lecture Series.

"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."

Recent history

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," Grann said.

"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."

Anticipated film

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 Shackleton.

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."


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