A year or so after I got the idea for The Case of The Osage Heiress, I started seeing this book everywhere.
This is a very comprehensive, well-researched and captivating book about what’s called the Osage Murders, the murder of Anna Brown and her sister’s search for justice.
It pulls in a lot of context on the FBI and investigator’s side, and has amazing first-hand accounts from unusual sources, including living relatives of some of the villains. This really is what I’d recommend as the definitive work on the case.
Honestly, I had a hard time reading the whole thing all the way through. The enormity and scope of the injustices and violence made me too angry to read very long in one sitting.
I read a note in an academic paper that has stayed with me – the descendants of the victims and “guardians” still live in the same communities now that they did then. The Osage remember who the “guardians” were and do no business with them. We need to remember where the “guardians” came from, what they wrought and how it is still unaddressed.
The author did a masterful job of weaving together a cohesive story without over-sensationalizing anything, and I highly recommend it.
One of the best resources I found for explaining exactly how the guardian system worked is actually a 40 page pamphlet available for free. Even more miraculously than it being free, it’s written quite clearly. I find a lot of sources from the time have an overwrought style that’s difficult to follow. Released in 1924 by Gertrude Bonnin and the Office of Indian Rights after a trip to Oklahoma, it’s available here as a pdf.
Gertrude Bonnin is also known as Zitkála-Šá, and was a Sioux writer, editor, musician, teacher and political activist. In 1913 she collaborated to write the first Native American opera, The Sun Dance Opera. She co-founded the National Council of Native Americans in 1926 and served as President until her death in 1938.
Here are some books that sounded extremely promising, but I unfortunately didn’t have the research budget to purchase. If you’ve read one of them, let me know what they’re like.
The Underground Reservation: Osage Oil by Terry Wilson
And Still the Waters Run: The Betrayal of the Five Civilized Tribes by Angie Debo
Osage Oil Business by Kenny Franks was recommended, but I can’t find a copy of it anywhere. Kenny Franks, however, appears to be a historian who specializes in oil business history in the area.
He also edited a book called Voices From the Oil Fields, which is a collection of early oil field workers’ recollections collected by the Federal Writers Project in the late 30’s. If you’re interested more in how the rough necks did the actual day-to-day job, this would be a gold mine.
This was the first book I read about the Osage conspiracy, and it’s a very interesting one. It’s part personal and family memoir, part investigative journalism, and part history.
The author decides to look into the mysterious suicide of his Osage grandmother, which happened in the 1920’s when his mother was just a toddler. He goes into depth about how this impacted his mother and every aspect of her life growing up, as well as how it was revealed to him. Because of the time, place and culture his mother was raised in (Oklahoma), her Osage heritage was treated as a shameful secret.
I found it to be a really interesting look at their family dynamics, and how he was able to piece together information about the grandmother he and his mother never knew. He also gets far enough that he is able to basically confirm that his grandmother was killed for her share in the Osage oil money, most likely by someone working for her white step-father.
The evidence and clues are haunting – the Catholic Church allowed her to be buried in the family mausoleum, a receipt that confirms she was pregnant again, a record of her estate shows an unusual payoff to the maid who was in the house at the time, and an impossibly fast account published in the newspaper.
This book is dark. The author seriously considers the possibility that his grandfather, that he did know and have a relationship with, was the murderer. The more personal bits of the book include that he’s been married 4 or 5 times, that his wife is pregnant with their first child, and that he’s descending into alcoholism while in Oklahoma investigating the book.
I will say that at times I had difficulty following the threads of the investigation, just from the sheer number of names and complicated family relationships. It’s the best first person account of modern fall-out I’ve read.
I would recommend it if you’re interested in cold case work and some very interesting, very personal history. There is some coverage given about the FBI and how the cases were treated at the time. There’s also some exploration of his Osage heritage that is new to him. I found that part less interesting. I have a lot of family in Oklahoma and the things he found new are cultural there. In a random aside, he does basically accuse Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Pa of murder (I know!).
If you’re looking for an exhaustive history of the events larger than just his particular family, or in-depth coverage of the cases that were eventually prosecuted and how it all fit together, I don’t think this is quite the one.
Unfortunately, I seem to have left this book behind somewhere in a move, so no picture other than the Amazon one.
The Empire of the Summer Moon was given to me by my husband’s boss’s wife (how’s that for a relationship tree). Her book club had read it and enjoyed it, which I was a bit surprised to hear given how violent most of the history presented in the book was, but it is an excellent and compelling read.
The book tells the history and story of the Comanche people, mostly focusing on those in Texas. The author manages to bring to life the struggles of the tribe and the pioneers, and doesn’t flinch in portraying just how violent and terrible those conflicts were.
The name of the book is taken from the Comanche’s favorite time to come raiding, when the moon was big and bright.
In particular, the author focuses on the story of Cynthia Ann Parker, the white girl captured by the Comanches as a child and whose son, Quanah Parker, the other main character of the book, becomes the last great war chief and leader of her new people. Her story is what the great John Wayne movie The Searchers is based on, although she didn’t have the happy ending that the girl in the movie did.
Mary, the Boyd Widow’s aunt, is based on survivors and stories from this history. She’s a survivor of one of the last Comanche raids in Texas, when almost everyone had been rounded up and put on a reservation to die.
One thing about writing about the early 1930’s that amazes me is how recent some of America’s “ancient” history is then. There were still Civil War vets around, and many more people who had survived being born into slavery. Native Americans hadn’t been on reservations for all that long, and there were survivors of those pioneer days around as well, especially in the North Texas/Oklahoma area.
The mix of people and monumental society shifts in such a short time is breath-taking, which is part of why I love the era.
This gem of a history/art/recipe book happened to catch my eye at the library in the New Releases section, and I picked it up on a whim. Best decision ever (well, as far as library decisions go).
The author of Lost Recipes of Prohibition, Notes from a Bootlegger’s Manual, is a trained museum curator and historian, and he brings that sensibility into the book. He was given the bootlegger’s manual by a friend, and so the book is an exploration of that and much more.
[bctt tweet=”Ever wanted to make your own Gin? This book will tell you everything you need to know!”]
He goes into the history of the recipes and formulas as he shares, and some incredibly in depth information about how Prohibition came about, as well as how people got around it. Ever wanted to make your own Gin? There’s a recipe for that.
One of my favorite parts though, is the actual manual itself and the additional original ads, clippings and what Pinterest refers to as “ephemera.” Full images from the original manual appear throughout the book and really inspired me visually.
If you enjoy history, recipes, old books or the Prohibition era, first off we should be friends, and secondly, you should look this one up. It’s a fun, engaging look at an amazing time in our country. Any other Prohibition cocktail books I’m missing out on?
I’ve always been a voracious reader. It’s a family gift and curse. I grew up reading the newspaper every day (start with the funny papers, duh) and library trips were a weekly treat. We would spend hours there and haul our booty home in big canvas bags, cackling at the 6 week long checkout period that my hometown had. I should also mention here that my mother is a librarian.
All this to say, a monthly or more feature is going to be book reviews. I plan on reviewing the favorite bits of my library, which fall into the general categories of history and mystery. There might be a side of cookbooks and business/personal success ones as well, if there’s any interest.
I will be the first to admit that my fiction reading is not at the top of it’s game in recent years, so I’m looking for recommendations from you. Please pass along any mysteries or fiction that you have enjoyed, I would love to read and it pass it on!