Meet David Grann
The Stillwater Public Library's ninth community reading series, "One Book, One Community: Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI" celebrated its kick-off March 1. The series runs through April 12, when it concludes with the library's biggest finale yet - an evening with bestselling author David Grann.
“This is the first time the library has hosted a bestselling author,” said Lynda Reynolds, library director. “We are so pleased that the Osage Nation Foundation is providing our community the chance to meet David Grann and to talk to an author of a book that is turning out to mean so much to Oklahomans.”
Grann’s book, which recounts the 1920s serial murders of Osage tribe members, has spent 31 weeks on the New York Times Bestseller list and is bringing awareness about both the dark events in Oklahoma’s past and the resilience of the Osage people.
“The book bringing this little known history to the attention of the nation,” said Reynolds. “It is also bringing well-deserved attention to one of the country’s top non-fiction writers.”
“Killers of the Flower Moon” is Grann’s third in a string of critical and public non-fiction successes.
His 2008 book, “The Lost City of Z,” told the story of British explorer Percy Fawcett and his adventure into the Amazon to find the mysterious kingdom of El Dorado. It reached number four on the New York Times Bestseller list and was on the big screen in 2017.
In 2011, the author released “The Devil and Sherlock Holmes,” a collection of true crime stories, recounting everything from the search for mythical giant squid to the mysterious death of a Sherlock Holmes scholar. The film rights to four of the stories have been optioned for development.
The common element in each of the three books is the way Grann threw himself into their research.
According to a slate.com article, Grann is attracted to stories involving obsession, like Fawcett’s fascination with El Dorado or Bill Hale’s fixation with oil. Obsession is something the writer understands and experiences himself as he begins investigating for a book.
"When I work on stories,” said Grann. “I tend to lose sight of everything else. I forget to pay bills or to shave. I don't change my clothes as often as I should."
During his research for “The Lost City of Z,” obsession led to Grann uncovering new material in Fawcett’s archives and to following Fawcett’s path into the Amazon, a dangerous expedition said to have taken the lives of 100 people who died trying to find out what became of the explorer.
It was this same obsession that led Grann to spend nearly five years chasing research about the Osage murders. The author visited the Osage area two to three weeks at a time several times a year, tracking down and interviewing descendants, researching courthouse records, and sifting through state and national archives to uncover the story behind the murders.
But it is not just obsession that makes Grann’s books great; it is also his sheer writing talent. An article in Newsweek, which calls him the “Master of Nonfiction,” points out how refreshing it is to have an author who is known for nothing other than his hard work and writing skills.
Grann has a lot of experience honing those skills. The writer, who holds a master’s in international relations from Tufts and master’s in creative writing from Boston University, is the former executive editor of The Hill and senior editor of The New Republic. Since 2003, he has been a staff writer for the New Yorker where he has had articles win or be finalists for journalism awards.
Grann’s writing skills and reputation for integrity in journalism was much needed in tackling a sensitive story like that of “Killers of the Flower Moon.”
“I often feel that with a crime story, the moral standards have to be higher,” said Grann in a Newsweek interview. “You’re dealing with real victims, and with real consequences.”
What the librarians at Stillwater Public Library like about Grann is something that hits closer to home.
“This author loves to read,” said Reynolds. “Being a voracious reader really makes a difference in an author writing a book that readers love to read.”
In a New York Times article, Grann, who began his love affair with reading when he discovered the works of Oklahoma writer S.E. Hinton, says he tends to avoid reading non-fiction for pleasure.
“Because I read so much nonfiction for work, I enjoy fiction most, especially detective novels and mysteries that keep me awake at night. I’ll read anything by Megan Abbott, Eric Ambler, Kate Atkinson, Michael Connelly, John Grisham and Dashiell Hammett. I don’t instinctively pick up science fiction, but if it’s well written I can easily be swept away.”
Being a reader is a family trait for Grann. The author’s mother is Phyllis Grann, the first female publishing CEO who was the longtime head of Penguin Putnam. In New York Magazine, writer Tom Clancy called her “Supergirl,’ saying that "like Spielberg makes movies, she makes books."
“Stillwater owes a debt of gratitude to Mrs. Grann,” said Reynolds. “For raising a reader who is now bringing our community together to read and talk about his book.”
The David Grann event takes place at 7 p.m. at the OSU Alumni Center. Grann will be interviewed by Dr. Hugh Foley from Rogers State University and humanities consultant for the series. Special guests Margie Burkhart, Kathryn Red Corn, and Judge Marvin Stepson will also be interviewed. The three Osage Nation members are descendants of people named in Grann’s book.
Tickets to the event are required, but are free. Information about securing a ticket will be given out to participants at each program and small book discussion prior to April 1. After April 1, tickets will be available to the public online.
For more information about "One Book, One Community: Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI,” visit the library online at library.stillwater.org or call the Help Desk at (405) 372-3633.