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Killers of the Flower Moon: Will the Powerful Novel be a Blockbuster Success?

Updated: Apr 1, 2023

Movie coming in 2023

Full moon in a dusty-orange sky over tree
Photo by Ganapathy Kumar via Unsplash

Painful and powerful

When I was much younger, I was forever influenced by the book Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown. The book chronicled the continuous breaking of treaties by the American government with Native Americans. I was horrified, ashamed, and infuriated by the history I hadn't known until I read the book.

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee made me angry, but Killers of the Flower Moon affected me even more. David Grann's non-fiction book, Killers of the Flower Moon is not just about greed, land grabs, and stealing Native American rights. It's also about the pre-meditated murder of dozens and dozens of Osage Indians. Powerful white men killed innocent Native American people because they wanted the oil rights from the land that belonged to the Osage.

After so many murders, Herbert Hoover's fledgling FBI comes in to help solve the crimes, led by lawman Tom White. Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI intertwines the story of the murder investigation with the development of the FBI and the undercover agents involved.

This book hurts your heart

I was not aware that in the 1920s, the Osage people were the wealthiest people in the world. Having been forced onto a reservation in Oklahoma, oil was discovered on the land once thought to be useless. Suddenly, oil companies came, paying royalties to the members of the Osage Tribe offering them lifestyles of grandeur and luxury.

Until they started to be murdered one by one. They began dying from mysterious causes and unknown diseases. They were shot, bombed, and poisoned.

The people in power knew all about it...

The plot and the people

Mollie Burkhart has already lost one sister, only to lose another one. Her sister, Anna Brown, is missing. A week later, Anna is found shot dead by a stream. Mollie's mother is dying from a mysterious, undiagnosed illness. Her husband, Ernest, begins to search for answers.

And more landowners begin disappearing or dying.

Killers of the Flower Moon begins with Mollie Burkhart's story and grows into a story of other families suffering the inexplicable losses of family members. The tale grows into the story of detective work to solve the crimes, the righteous people who lost their lives while trying to help the Osage, the rampant corruption and greed of politicians and lawmakers, the development of procedures in the FBI to standardize crime-solving, and the failure of the law and legal systems to protect and defend those who need it most.

Tom White, the lawman put in charge of solving the murders, is an unforgettable man, a quiet hero who fought hard for justice all his life. His is an important story that will not be forgotten because it's recorded in the pages of David Grann's astounding work.

What reviewers say

Killers of the Flower Moon was named the Best Book of the Year (2017) by numerous institutions, including The Wall Street Journal, Time Magazine, Bloombert, and NPR, just to name a few.

Reviewers said things like this:

"David Grann has a razor-keen instinct for suspense. He shapes outrage into a principled, steady insistence that voice be given to the victims and their descendants. He creates deeply human portraits of every character in this drama - the evil, the just, the innocent, the doomed. Through meticulous detective work, Grann rescues the unbearable truth. As with all his books, this is a mesmerizing read." - Louise Erdrich
"Close to impeccable. It's confident, fluid in its dynamics, light on its feet...The crime story it tells is appalling, and stocked with authentic heroes and villaians. It will make you cringe at man's inhumanity to man." - The New York Times


"A fascinating account of a tragic and forgotten chapter in the history of the American West. As in all his work, David Grann digs deep, and this powerful story reveals the unimaginable scale fo these shocking murders almost a hundred years ago." - John Grisham.

You get the idea. This is a powerful, painful, important book.

The movie is coming in 2023

The book's usually better, but there's no denying the movie has the potential to be a blockbuster success.

Martin Scorsese, nominated five times for Best Director at the Academy of Arts, is directing the film.

Leonardo DiCaprio will play Ernest Burkhart. The cast is filled with other A-listers, including Robert De Nero, Jesse Plemmons, John Lithgow, and Lily Gladstone.

Originally, Paramount picked up the film, but when the budget got beyond $200 Million, they sold the rights to Apple, partly because DiCaprio was slated to play Tom White and opted instead to play Ernest Burkhart. Paramount was afraid that if DiCaprio didn't play the lead role, the movie wouldn't be as commercially successful. Apple, who won an Academy Award for CODA, apparently doesn't have the same qualms.

The film version of Killers of the Flower Moon is slated for release in 2023.

For writers everywhere

Just a side note for writers everywhere.

David Grann is a recognized, established author. His other works include The Lost City of Z, The Devil and Sherlock Holmes, and The Great Whiteness. A new book called The Wager: A Tale of Shipwreck, Murder, and Mutiny is soon to be released.

But here's a note of crazy hope for other writers.

The film rights to Killers of the Flower Moon were sold in 2016, a year before the book was published!

It can happen!

Read the book. See the movie.

If you like nonfiction...

If you study American history...

If true-crime stories intrigue you...

If you want to know about social injustice and racial prejudice...

If you appreciate meticulous research and great writing...

Read The Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI. Then set aside time, grab your popcorn, and get ready to watch a heart-wrenching, murder-mystery, fight-for-right kind of film that may very well be the blockbuster success of 2023.


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