No wonder you were so smitten with David Grann’s Killers of the Flower Moon. This is the kind of story I imagine filled the pages of those vintage Adventure magazines: unexpected fortunes, devastating losses, deceit and betrayal.

All written with dialogue and description that makes it seem like a novel rather than investigative journalism (but with pages of endnotes and a long bibliography and a photograph inserted every few pages).

Admittedly, I enjoyed the parts about the Osage more than the parts about the lawmen, even though they inhabited the tragedy of it all. Very quickly, I lost track of the injustices.

The most significant must have been that initial loss of homeland, the elders forced to sign that treaty so that they would not be declared enemies of the American government. And, then, to have been forced onto such inhospitable land in the reservation system (in now-Kansas) that they were forced to buy other land for their people simply to survive (in now-Oklahoma).

Well, that’s an old story, I suppose. With the new twist being those massive oil deposits in the “new” land. With over $400 million from the leases and royalties in 1923 alone? Sheesh: stunning!

It’s little wonder that they became targets, with the media reporting such ridiculous stories of how the tribal members were mismanaging their wealth, combined with the pre-existing hatred of indigenous groups.

And given the more systemic methods of extermination – the residential schools, the land grabs – it’s obvious that a couple dozen murders wouldn’t have upset anybody in an official capacity… but it’s still shocking.

(But, then, the right-wing outrage up here, over the use of the term ‘genocide’ in the discussions related to the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women report released in June, suggests nothing much has changed.)

You recommended the Grann volume later in 2017, so I reached back further for another title you recommended much earlier in our correspondence to read next: David Guterson’s Snow Falling on Cedars.

That was one of those on-everybody’s-lips titles that I probably did intend to read, but, then, it became so ubiquitous (a movie, even!) that I naturally drifted away. I remember we chatted about one of his later books  (The Other, maybe? which sounds like another relevant read for our times) but I don’t think either of us read any others of his.

What I wouldn’t do right now for some “furious, wind-shipped flakes” against the windows though or the “gently implacability” of it falling in the distance. The other night it was twenty-six degrees overnight, whereas that would make a perfectly respectable daytime temperature, wouldn’t it. (What a relief that climate change isn’t for reals. *coughs*)

Cedars starts with atmosphere and description, but you know I have a soft spot for courtroom stories, so I’m not worried about the slow build. And I have just begun that Ann Cleeves series you suggested, the one they’ve made into Vera, so I do have a more gripping story at hand, for those reading spells which demand more action. Although The Crow Trap is all about setting and feel at this point too (except for that matter of the suicide-that’s-not-as-straightforward-as-it-seems). It’s mostly ground-cover plants and birds just now!

When I write next, I’ll have gotten further with the latest Barbara Kingsolver too. You were intending to get to that one, but I don’t know if you got there before everything took such a bloody awful turn for you. So far, it seems like a cross between the astute observations of The Bean Trees and the setting-soaked Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. You would have liked it.


My friend, Barbara – librarian and booklover – died shortly after Christmas. We met via a listserv dedicated to Canadian literature, a serious venture that inspired us to take our enthusiasm offline, where we exchanged proper letters – mostly about books and cats – for about 19 years. In my mind, our bookish conversation is ongoing. (Letter One of Four is here.)