David Grann, the #1 New York Times best-selling author, New Yorker writer, and National Book Award finalist, visited JHC on October 1 and spoke at a sold-out program at the Carriage House–JHC’s first major event there since the pandemic began.
He discussed his book “Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI,” which highlights an investigation into a series of assassinations and complicit coverups that took place in the 1920s in Oklahoma after oil was discovered on Native American lands.
Grann’s work is soon to be a Apple Original film directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro, and John Lithgow.
Guests sipped wine and beer at an outdoor reception at twilight, against the backdrop of the glowing 1907 Van Norden Carriage House. Inside, a gentle breeze from open doors and windows cooled the audience, which sat in socially distanced chairs in the charmingly renovated horse bay.
Grann showed slides of the key events and characters in the book, and later took questions from the audience. One serendipitous encounter: In the audience was Mary Hory, a longtime JHC supporter with a direct connection to the story in “Killers of the Flower Moon.” Her grandfather had worked with members of the Osage Nation after oil was discovered to help them protect their mineral rights. He was eventually adopted by the Osage and given the name Hulah-Kihe-Kah: Eagle Chief.
Special thanks to Clay Esler from RyeTV for filming the event and to Patrick Corcoran from Arcade Booksellers for selling copies of Grann’s books at the event. Arcade will also have copies of Grann’s books for sale that were signed by the author after the event.
David Grann is a #1 New York Times bestselling author and an award-winning staff writer at The New Yorker magazine. His most-recent book, The White Darkness, was published in 2018, is a true story of adventure and obsession in the Antarctic.
His previous book, Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI, documented one of the most sinister crimes and racial injustices in American history. Described by Dave Eggers in the New York Times Book Review as a “riveting” work that will “sear your soul,” Killers of the Flower Moon was a finalist for the National Book Award and a winner of the Edgar Allen Poe Award for best true crime book, a Spur Award for best work of historical nonfiction, and an Indies Choice Award for best adult nonfiction book of the year. A #1 New York Times bestseller, Killers of the Flower Moon was named one of the best books of the year by the Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Time, Entertainment Weekly, Boston Globe, San Francisco Chronicle, NPR, PBS, Bloomberg, GQ, Slate, Buzzfeed, Vogue, and other publications. Amazon named Killers of the Flower Moon the single best book of the year, and so did Shelf Awareness. The book is being adapted into a major motion picture, with Martin Scorsese slated to direct and Leonardo DiCaprio to play a role.
Grann’s first book, The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon, was also #1 New York Times bestseller and has been translated into more than twenty-five languages. Shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize, the book was chosen as one of the best books of 2009 by the New York Times, Washington Post, Entertainment Weekly, Bloomberg, Publishers Weekly, Christian Science Monitor,and other publications. It won the Indies Choice award for the single best nonfiction book of the year. New York Times critic Michiko Katukani described The Lost City of Z as “suspenseful” and “rollicking,” reading “with all the pace and excitement of a movie thriller and all the verisimilitude and detail of firsthand reportage.” The Washington Post called it a “thrill ride from start to finish.” The book was adapted into a critically acclaimed film directed by James Gray and starring Charlie Hunnam, Sienna Miller, Robert Pattinson, and Tom Holland.
Grann’s other book, The Devil and Sherlock Holmes, contains many of his New Yorker stories, and was named by Men’s Journal one of the best true crime books ever written. The stories in the collection focus on everything from the mysterious death of the world’s greatest Sherlock Holmes expert to a Polish writer who might have left clues to a real murder in his postmodern novel. Another piece, “Trial by Fire,” exposed how junk science led to the execution of a likely innocent man in Texas. The story received a George Polk award for outstanding journalism and a Silver Gavel award for fostering the public’s understanding of the justice system, and the piece was cited by the U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer in his opinion on the constitutionality of the death penalty. Grann–whom Vox called a “longform-journalism legend,” and whose work Slate said “inspires a devotion in readers that can border on the obsessive”–has twice received the Sigma Delta Chi Award for excellence in journalism.
Several of his stories have served as source material for feature films. “Old Man and the Gun” in The Devil and Sherlock Holmes, which is about an aging stick-up man and prison escape artist, will be released in 2018 by Fox Searchlight Pictures. The film is directed by David Lowery and stars Robert Redford, Casey Affleck, Sissy Spacek, Danny Glover, and Tom Waits. A movie based on “Trial by Fire” is also being released this year. It’s directed by Ed Zwick and stars Jack O’Connell and Laura Dern. And another story, “The Yankee Comandante,” is being developed into a film by George Clooney.
Over the years, Grann’s stories have appeared in The Best American Crime Writing; The Best American Sports Writing; and The Best American Nonrequired Reading. His stories have also appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Atlantic, Washington Post, Boston Globe, and Wall Street Journal.
Before joining The New Yorker in 2003, Grann was a senior editor at The New Republic, and, from 1995 until 1996, the executive editor of the newspaper The Hill. He holds master’s degrees in international relations from the Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy as well as in creative writing from Boston University. After graduating from Connecticut College in 1989, he received a Thomas Watson Fellowship and did research in Mexico, where he began his career in journalism. He currently lives in New York with his wife and two children.