Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI

by David Grann

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Overview

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

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER   -  NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FINALIST 

"Disturbing and riveting...It will sear your soul." Dave Eggers, New York Times Book Review

SHELF AWARENESS'S BEST BOOK OF 2017

Named a best book of the year by Wall Street Journal, The Boston Globe, San Francisco Chronicle, GQ, Time, Newsday, Entertainment Weekly, Time Magazine, NPR's Maureen CorriganNPR's "On Point," Vogue, Smithsonian, Cosmopolitan, Seattle Times, Bloomberg, Lit Hub's "Ultimate Best Books," Library Journal, Paste, Kirkus, Slate.com and
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From New Yorker staff writer David Grann, #1 New York Times best-selling author of The Lost City of Z, a twisting, haunting true-life murder mystery about one of the most monstrous crimes in American history

       
In the 1920s, the richest people per capita in the world were members of the Osage Indian nation in Oklahoma. After oil was discovered beneath their land, they rode in chauffeured automobiles, built mansions, and sent their children to study in Europe.
      Then, one by one, the Osage began to be killed off. The family of an Osage woman, Mollie Burkhart, became a prime target. Her relatives were shot and poisoned. And it was just the beginning, as more and more members of the tribe began to die under mysterious circumstances.
      In this last remnant of the Wild West—where oilmen like J. P. Getty made their fortunes and where desperadoes like Al Spencer, the “Phantom Terror,” roamed—many of those who dared to investigate the killings were themselves murdered. As the death toll climbed to more than twenty-four, the FBI took up the case. It was one of the organization’s first major homicide investigations and the bureau badly bungled the case. In desperation, the young director, J. Edgar Hoover, turned to a former Texas Ranger named Tom White to unravel the mystery. White put together an undercover team, including one of the only American Indian agents in the bureau. The agents infiltrated the region, struggling to adopt the latest techniques of detection.  Together with the Osage they began to expose one of the most chilling conspiracies in American history. 
      In Killers of the Flower Moon, David Grann revisits a shocking series of crimes in which dozens of people were murdered in cold blood. Based on years of research and startling new evidence, the book is a masterpiece of narrative nonfiction, as each step in the investigation reveals a series of sinister secrets and reversals. But more than that, it is a searing indictment of the callousness and prejudice toward American Indians that allowed the murderers to operate with impunity for so long. Killers of the Flower Moon is utterly compelling, but also emotionally devastating.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780307742483
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 04/03/2018
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 400
Sales rank: 352
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.94(h) x 0.81(d)

About the Author

DAVID GRANN is a staff writer at The New Yorker and the bestselling author of The Devil and Sherlock Holmes and The Lost City of Z, which has been translated into more than 25 languages. His stories have appeared in many anthologies of the best American writing, and he has written for The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and The New Republic.

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Chapter 1
(Continues…)



Excerpted from "Killers of the Flower Moon"
by .
Copyright © 2017 David Grann.
Excerpted by permission of Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Chronicle 1 The Marked Woman

1 The Vanishing 5

2 An Act of God or Man? 17

3 King of the Osage Hills 25

4 Underground Reservation 37

5 The Devil's Disciples 56

6 Million Dollar Elm 70

7 This Thing of Darkness 81

Chronicle 2 The Evidence Man

8 Department of Easy Virtue 103

9 The Undercover Cowboys 113

10 Eliminating the Impossible 119

11 The Third Man 126

12 A Wilderness of Mirrors 133

13 A Hangman's Son 137

14 Dying Words 151

15 The Hidden Face 157

16 For the Betterment of the Bureau 164

17 The Quick-Draw Artist, the Yegg, and the Soup Man 171

18 The State of the Game 179

19 A Traitor to His Blood 196

20 So Help You God! 213

21 The Hot House 225

Chronicle 3 The Reporter

22 Ghostlands 241

23 A Case Not Closed 256

24 Standing in Two Worlds 265

25 The Lost Manuscript 275

26 Blood Cries Out 280

Acknowledgments 293

A Note on the Sources 297

Archival and Unpublished Sources 299

Notes 301

Selected Bibliography 325

Reading Group Guide

The questions, discussion topics, and suggestions for further reading that follow are designed to enhance your group’s discussion of Killers of the Flower Moon, the New York Times bestseller that delves into a dark and haunted corner of American history.

1. What do the contemporary media reports on the wealth and lifestyle of the Osage reflect about white perceptions of Native Americans (pp. 6–7; pp. 76–77)? In what way do they lay a foundation for the way the murders and mysterious deaths were treated by law enforcement?

2. What was your first impression of William Hale (p. 17)? How does Grann bring to life his strengths and appeal, as well as the darker side of his nature? What qualities does he share with people who achieve power and influence today?

3. How did you respond to the description of law enforcement in America during the 1920s (p. 19)? What elements most shocked or surprised you? What made the situation in Osage County particularly chaotic? What effect did this have on the investigations into the deaths of Anna Brown and Charles Whitehorn?

4. What does Grann’s account of the relationship between the United States government and Native Americans contribute to your understanding of the country’s history (pp. 37–44)? How did government policies affect individuals like Mollie and her family? What does Grann capture in his description of Lizzie’s death: “Lizzie’s spirit had been claimed by Jesus Christ, the Lord and Savior, and by Wah’Kon-Tah, the Great Mystery” (p. 36)?

5. Discuss the circumstances that distinguished the Osage from other Native American tribes, including the actions taken by tribal leaders early in the century; the influx of white settlers and oil prospectors; the granting of headrights; and the guardianship system (pp. 78–80).

6. What is the significance of the murder of Barney McBride, the oilman who went to Washington to seek help for the Osage (p. 68) and of W.W. Vaughan, the attorney who worked with private detectives investigating the murders (p. 93–4)?

7. What does Grann’s portrait convey about J. Edgar Hoover (p. 107)? What traits stand out and what do they foretell about Hoover’s future as director of the FBI?

8. In what ways does Tom White combine the qualities of the Old West and of the modern bureaucratic system Hoover is trying to create? How does this influence the steps he takes in investigating the murders? How do the various views of White, including the stories of his childhood and his work as a Texas Ranger (pp. 137–153), shape your impressions of him? Would you define him as the hero of the book?

9. How were manufactured evidence, suborned testimony, and false confessions used to divert the FBI investigation? What role did independently hired private eyes and informants play in the search for the truth?

10. The crimes in Osage County involved many levels of deception and betrayal. In addition to the actual conspirators, who else either directly profited from the crimes or was silently complicit in them? In what ways did accepted mores encourage the corruption that plagued the investigation?

11. What role did new methods of criminal investigation play in uncovering the guilty parties? In addition to introducing up-to-date forensic science, how did Hoover use the case to transform the Bureau of Investigation and simultaneously enhance his own image?

12. During Hale’s trial, a member of the Osage tribe said, “It is a question in my mind whether this jury is considering a murder case or not. The question for them to decide is whether a white man killing an Osage is murder—or merely cruelty to animals” (p. 215). Why does this observation resonate beyond the immediate circumstances?

13. Perhaps the most chilling aspect of Killers of the Flower Moon is the marital and familial connections between murderers and their victims. What explains Ernest Burkhart’s actions even as he remained married to and had children with Mollie? How does Grann bring to life the particular horror of crimes committed within a family and a close-knit community?

14. What does the evidence Grann uncovered when he visited Osage County in 2012 reveal about the lasting legacy of the “Reign of Terror”?

15. Killers of the Flower Moon combines the fast pace of a true-life murder mystery with the scope and detail of a narrative history. How does Grann integrate these different aspects of the book?

16. We are familiar with many American crimes and criminals during the early twentieth century from movies, books, and television shows. Why do you think the story of the Osage murders hasn’t received similar attention?

17. Are there recent examples of racial prejudice and injustice that parallel those described in Killers of the Flower Moon? What has changed about the approach taken by law enforcement? About the attitudes expressed by the white community in the face of racial or religious discrimination? In what ways have things remained the same?

Customer Reviews

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Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI (Signed Book) 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 54 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a fabulously sad book about the Osage. I cannot fathom how anyone could harm anyone over money that was not theirs, especially their own family. It is true, not that I ever doubted, "For the love of money is the root of all evil". These roots ran deep and wide, The author and tale drew me in and held me in the hurt and I had to put it down to breathe. I found myself talking about this plight to anyone who would listen. I will go to see Osage county myself and pay my respects. A true treasure .
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was born in Hominy, OK. I grew up with stories about the Osage tribe and their exploitation. This account leaves me breathless. Thank you Mr. Gann.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a part of history that should be learned by all. It's a dirty little secret, hidden from the history books. It has now been exposed, this is a must read. A shameful past. Very well written, very well researched. How did any Indians survive this shameful treatment? What other horrors have been dealt to American Indians? I'm sure there's more, unfortunately. Read this book, Never forget!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book! Very interesting information and well written
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very interesting. Well researched.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I could not put this book down, a great read.
Deb-Krenzer More than 1 year ago
This was a very good book. I had not heard of anything that had happened in this book. I even asked my roommate who grew up in Oklahoma if he had heard of any of this and he had not. I would think that some mention of this would be included in the Oklahoma history books, but I am wrong. This was undoubtedly one of the most shaming book of American history I have ever read. And all of this was done for money. Sickening. I found this book to be very interesting and there were not many pages that I glossed over. Usually in a book like this, there are a few pages that I will do that, not in this one. You can certainly tell that there was a lot of research that was done while writing this book. And the writing also told a story. It wasn't just a bunch of information just thrown in there. I also could not believe the follow-up after the FBI left when there was proof that it just wasn't all Hale's doing. He was bad enough, but all the others? Sad. I also liked reading about the FBI part of it as well. Especially the parts where Hoover is concerned. I will hold off on calling him the names I am thinking. An interesting, very informative, sad, unbelievable, and just downright head shaking read. If your into history or just trivia, this is a book you need to read. Thanks Doubleday Books for approving my request and to Net Galley for providing me with a free e-galley in exchange for an honest review.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great research and facts.
SheTreadsSoftly More than 1 year ago
Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann is a very highly recommended account of the Osage murders in Oklahoma during the 1920's. This is sure to be on my top ten nonfiction books of the year. Simply Excellent. "In April, millions of tiny flowers spread over the blackjack hills and vast prairies in the Osage territory of Oklahoma. There are Johnny-jump-ups and spring beauties and little bluets. The Osage writer John Joseph Mathews observed that the galaxy of petals makes it look as if the 'gods had left confetti.' In May, when coyotes howl beneath an unnervingly large moon, taller plants, such as spiderworts and black-eyed Susans, begin to creep over the tinier blooms, stealing their light and water. The necks of the smaller flowers break and their petals flutter away, and before long they are buried underground. This is why the Osage Indians refer to May as the time of the flower-killing moon." After oil was discovered on land where the mineral rights were owned by the Osage Indian Nation in Oklahoma, the Osage became the richest people per capita in the world. Millions of dollars was distributed to tribal members holding "headrights" which could not be bought or sold but only inherited. As history has often shown, with great wealth come unethical, immoral people looking for a way to take advantage. In the case of the Osage it was through several methods including: charging them more than others for any good and services; having them declared incompetent to handle their financial affairs so influential white men were declared administrators of their estates, allowing them to legally swindle the Osage; and marrying an Osage tribal member. If these corrupt practices weren't bad enough, it became clear that the Osage were being murdered, through car accidents, poison, bombings, or outright shooting. Mollie Burkhart saw her family slowed killed off, one by one. One sister was likely poisoned, while another sister was shot. Her mother was poisoned - and Molly herself was in danger. Molly wasn't the only family experiencing murder and mysterious deaths either. To make matters more complicated, anyone looking into the deaths turned up dead too. It became known as the "Reign of Terror" and it was unknown how high up the corruption went to protect the perpetrators. A young J. Edgar Hoover took notice of the death toll of over twenty-four Osage, and saw solving these cases and bringing the perpetrators to justice as a means of increasing the importance of the new FBI. He put former Texas Ranger Tom White in charge. White proceeded to amass an undercover team, including one of the only Native American agents in the bureau, and set out to uncovered the people and corruption that were behind the murders. Grann continues his research beyond the initial investigation, exposing facts which show that the corruption extended even further beyond the limited scope of the FBI investigation. Killers of the Flower Moon is a riveting historical true crime account that reads like a mystery/thriller. The writing is superb and the presentation flawless. Grann does an excellent job describing the setting and people involved. Adding to the narrative are many period photographs of the people involved. This is a well-researched book and covers everything I look for in nonfiction. Grann has documented his sources in a vast section of chapter notes and includes an extensive bibliography. courtesy of Doubleday
Anonymous 9 months ago
Recommend it highly.
Anonymous 12 months ago
This is an excellent read. Based on solid research and interviews. Sickening that this happened to indigenous people and was essentally sanctioned by local authotities and allowed by the highly predjudiced US government.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I understand the book needed to be fact-based. However it was a bit dry. I wish it had been told with more sympathy/Emotion.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Nook book is 30% more expensive then the paperback! This is absolute abuse of nook owners! Screw B&N!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Having this presented as a novel allows more people to understand the injustice done to the Osage and to the other tribes in the Indian Territory. Not only was their land drained of oil and natural gas, the land itself was eventually given up for grabs. Thls was only part of many in a long line of injustices. Some wanted the Indians to be treated fairly, but more often man's greed won out.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This story reminds me of today's large lottery winners. Too much money and there is bound to be problems. The Osage Indian needed to be educated on handling money. A pre-natal would have protected the head rights with no inheritance to anyone without Osage birth certificate. Is money more important than life? People have been killed for it since it was invented.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Mr Gann tells a page turner story. I wish he would have given more information about those murdered, told about their lives. Even a chart with name, age, cause of death, estimated amount of money stolen, and suspect to illustrate the scope.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Highly recommend to anyone. The book is a page turner and I could not stop thinking about it days after. It exposes a dark past of American history and is shocking, sad, and frightening that this occurred. What's even more shocking is that this was the first time I (and probably most readers) learned of this tragedy. The book is even more powerful by telling the stories of those affected and those who tried to bring justice.
Anonymous 25 days ago
Anonymous 3 months ago
The story was one that needed to be told. The telling of the story was like reading a freshman high school essay. Even with photographs the author never brought the subjects to life. This book should have been so much better.
Anonymous 6 months ago
smg5775 10 months ago
Interesting book on an event that is never taught in school. I especially liked when the investigation is taken over by the FBI. I was appalled by the murders. The Osage were intelligent when negotiating with the government and got the mineral rights to their lands. White man greed once again destroys lives and the Osage community because of oil. I also liked the last part as the reporter is going over the story and discovers that the four years of terror started long before those years and lasted longer with many more men and women who should have been arrested and prosecuted. Mr. Grann put a human face to the people whose lives were affected and the actions of those who were to protect the Osage cannot be justified. Shameful! A good read.
CCinME 12 months ago
A must-read on Native American history. Very well researched and presented. Just when you think you've seen the worst of what the white invaders have done, along comes another story which confounds in it's greed, bigotry, oppression and ability to do evil.
Mel-Loves-Books More than 1 year ago
“History is a merciless judge. It lays bare our tragic blunders and foolish missteps and exposes our most intimate secrets, wielding the power of hindsight like an arrogant detective who seems to know the end of the mystery from the outset.” In this book the tragic history of what was done to a tribe of people for greed is told. It reveals so much mystery and a dark heart of American history. It also discloses the beginnings of law enforcement and the FBI and what the early days of these two industries were like in action. Humanity is flawed, and we got some things terribly wrong, I believe books like this one are so important to remind us to be different going forward. I give this book 4 stars. A first I had a hard time with the book going back and forth between two sides of the story, from the perspective of the Osage and on family in particular, to the perspective of the early law enforcement. It didn’t take long to catch on to the style though, and there is so much heart mixed in with facts in the telling of this story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago