‘Killers of the Flower Moon’ is a book and a film

Killers of the Flower Moon has been making headlines as film critics have been talking about it a lot recently. This prompted me to read the book. I am glad I did. Here are my thoughts.

The Story

Killers of the Flower Moon is non-fiction. The writer, David Grann, is a journalist who has spent years investigating the story. Towards the end of the book, he tells us about his experience in studying archives and meeting people with knowledge of the events in question. Sherlock Holmes might have called it ‘A most singular tale’. A series of deaths occurred among Osage Indians in Oklahoma in the 1920’s but for a long time corruption and ineptitude dominated law enforcement in that region and the bodies kept on coming. Eventually a serious investigation took place and the focus of a lot of the book (unlike the film, apparently) is on the principal investigator.  The story contains many surprises and some real shocks, even after we appear to have reached the conclusion.

Characters

Many characters populate the book: victims, suspects, lawmen, private eyes. The writer has drawn some in more detail than others, not only because of their relative importance, but also because of the different amounts of information he was able to obtain, but the principal characters come alive in these pages and the book contains photos of many of the individuals. In such a dark tale, it was uplifting to read about at least one true hero who sought justice with determination, resourcefulness and real courage.

Setting

Try imagining America in the 1920’s the Charleston, silent movies, the spread of car ownership. Now think of the Wild West. Then try to marry the two images! David Grann does a great job at describing Oklahoma in that decade and rightly devotes a lot of space to setting the scene. I am so fascinated by it that I might set a story in that period. Perhaps a sequel to The Cowgirl Murders.  (For more about that see a previous post.)

Cover of The Cowgirl Murders. Perhaps a sequel should be set in the era of Killers of the Flower Moon?

Cover of The Cowgirl Murders. Perhaps a sequel should be set in the era of Killers of the Flower Moon?

Structure

There’s necessarily a lot of backstory about many of the characters as well as the history of the Osage and of Oklahoma. It is fed into the story in relatively small doses as the mystery unfolds, largely chronologically. There are several chapters about discoveries the writer made after he had thought he had finished. They were important, to say the least.

Overall

This was a fascinating story, well worth reading for its own sake, but it also has worrying similarities to Black Lives Matter, the Windrush scandal, the Post Office scandal and recent discoveries about the Metropolitan Police. Must history keep on repeating itself?

Will I see the film?

I probably will, but I can’t imagine it does justice to the material. Enjoy the film if you want, but please read the book in any case.