Thursday, August 30, 2018

Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann

The entire tribe of Travelers in the Mist strode forth in the late evening of the last Thursday of the August moon past the live oaks and the white oaks and into the humble hogan of Prof. Gillen. We welcomed Prof. Irons, a fellow traveler, for his initial venture into the murkiness. We received our published memoirs for our September meeting and rendered payments for our headrights thereunto. We considered the entries in the Virtual Cemetery for the Killers of the Flower Moon and whether their lives as documented by Prof. Grann can bring meaning to ours.  As we passed visual memories of the Tonkawa tribe around the campfire, each traveler spoke in their native tongue.

Ken:  This book came highly recommended by my wife and her book club.  It was resurrected history that needed to be told.  I found the book hard to put down.  If it were not my selection, I would grade it A-, but I vote to give it a solid A.

Charlie:  A-  The story line moves from bad, to very bad, to very, very bad.  I consider this very good journalism, not artistic like Truman Capote's In Cold Blood.  But high quality journalism:  A-

Ron B:  I found the book to provide good intensity for the 36% I have read on my Kindle.  That part was well written; the story needed to be told.  I found the narration to be a bit tedious as the author told where each character went, what they did in great detail.  The part I read was fairly good.

Tom G:  I agree with Dick J's comments:  a fascinating story and history, but the writing did not pull me in - not like Lansing's Endurance and other non-fiction books which have pulled me in.  B

Bob S:  Again I find myself overwhelmed with sadness by man's inhumanity and abuse of their fellow men, and women in this case, of members of the Osage Tribe.  I tired quickly of who killed who and how they were killed.  I was also moved by the injustice to those who had done no harm to anyone, and were only trying to enjoy the benefits of their good fortune to having been shunted to the least favorable land they could be given after being driven from their ancestral homelands by the aggression of white culture's westward expansion.
  To me, the book stands as further proof of the horrors inflicted on people by America's disregard for many peoples rights in the name of Manifest Destiny to be a "unified" nation from sea to shining sea.    I thought the book was well written. I found it a page turner and read it in four days, a record for me.  But at the end it left me depressed and saddened that I had been exposed to yet another example of how our great nation treated many of its citizens, with the only consolation being the creation of another institution of government to prevent criminal predation of one against another.  A-

Rob E:  I learned a lot from the book.  Things I wish could have (would have) been taught in school in the 50s in my home state of Oklahoma.  We learned about Indian tribes being relocated to OK; we learned about land rushes.  But that’s about it.I hope current and future students learn the ‘rest of the story,’ as illuminated by David Grann.
  My feeling about many non-fiction books that we’ve read is that the author does research and puts findings on 3x5 cards, then tries to tape them together to create a book.  I did not have that feeling here, perhaps because the author is a journalist, not a historian, or wanna-be historian.  It was good reading, as well as eye-opening.
  I was interested in the J. Edgar Hoover role.  He got his successful showcase trial, then left the scene, which was still littered with unrecognized and unprosecuted murders. It was interesting that Hoover regarded himself as a Progressive.  I’ve long thought that if you have to identify as a Progressive, you probably aren’t. Grann says (p. 178) that for J. Edgar, “Progressivism … reflected his own obsession with organization and social control.”  He goes on to note that Progressives, like Hoover, "… were so convinced of their own virtuous authority that they disdained democratic procedures.” Sound familiar? Thus, e.g., the Osage interests would be protected by ‘guardians.'
  Mentioning disdained democratic procedures makes me think of NYT columnist Tom Friedman who periodically writes on the theme, Why can’t our government be more like the Chinese? To me the Progressive trend has been exemplified in big cities, USA, over the last 50 years, where minorities have been consigned to ‘reservations’ that have poor living conditions, crime, drug trafficking, ineffective schools, joblessness, dysfunctional families, … all analogous to how the Osage were treated. These modern 'tribes' don’t have oil. Their ‘guardians’ only want their votes.

Pardon the side-trip.  As an Oklahoman, I really appreciate this book.  I give the book an A.

Bob W:  I give the book an unequivocal A, and I do not often grade thus.  This was a very valuable contribution to the history of the country.  Pretty well written, immense amount of research.  The last two chapters were more than we needed to know.  A

Karl Irons:  The story was worth telling -- and should have been told a long time ago -- but it wasn't told very well. There were too many holes and unanswered questions for my liking. I think the last chapter gave a clue as to why in that the author appeared to have been very careful to only report on what he could document through his extensive research. Grade B (A for the story; C for the execution.)

Dick J:  Tom and I agree:  not well written.  I read the book when it first came out, and again with the Club, and both times came away wanting more.  I immediately got it our of the library when it was first published and read it.  The book could be so much more.  I had the same reaction with the second reading.  The book came up short.  A great story not told in a great manner.  B+

Mike:  A great book for the first 36%.  What a story - how could none of us know anything about this?  My personal ignorance continues to amaze me.  The author did a beautiful job of drawing you in early by telling the story through the simple plea of  Mollie Burkhart:  where is my sister Anna?  She left my home 3 days ago - where is she?  From there, the mystery deepened.  Later he got a bit taken up in lionizing Tom White, who deserved to be lionized - but with what amount of detail?  And in Part 3, the Trial, the telling was muddled and non-gripping.  Finally, I would have loved to have an index in this book.  Tonight's discussion by my club members have convinced me: not an A- but a B+

Jack:  I thoroughly enjoyed the book.  I feel the same as Ken and Ron:  a story that needed to be told.  I learned so much about transgressions against the Indians, about the FBI, and about Oklahoma.  A-

Keith:  The author attempted a scholarly work and failed.  For this group of retired scientists he should have had a 100 page summary at the end.  In the third chapter, he became dramatic and it went downhill but he kept writing.  The government found a couple of scapegoats and quit investigating.  The book provided more questions than answers.

  Virtual Cemetery  

Osage Indian Murders