RARA-AVIS: Re: Fred Grove?

From: JIM DOHERTY (jimdohertyjr@yahoo.com)
Date: 07 Jan 2009

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    Re your question below:

    "When did Fred Grove die? He was one of the oldest Western writers living
    (born in 1913), but I haven't seen a death notice."

    Mr. Grove died last September. He was the winner of five Spur Awards from WWA, three for novels and two for short stories, along with what was then called the Levi Strauss Saddleman's Award for Lifetime Achievement (WWA changed the name to the Owen Wister Award when Levi Strauss withdrew its sponsorship).

    Best-known as a western writer, Mr. Grove, who was part Osage on his mother's side, wrote at least four crime novels, all set in th 1920's, that grew out of a traumatic experience he had in childhood.

    On 9 March 1923, at the age of 9, while visiting relatives in Fairfax, OK, he was awakened by an explosion a few blocks away. It turned out to be a bomb planted in the home of William Smith and his Osage wife, Rita. The explosion killed Both of the Smiths along with their live-in maid, Nettie Brookshire. This was the latest in a string of confirmed murders, along with a suspiciously high number of unexplained deaths, that were plaguing the Osage Tribe, whose oil wealth had made them the single wealthiest population group on the planet. Due to a group of unscrupulous men intent on obtaining their oil rights, they had, in a few short years, also become the population group suffering the highest murder rate on the planet. The case wasl ultimately solved by a team of FBI agents. It was the first really high-profile case ever investigated by the Bureau.

    Mr. Grove never forgot the experience. Years later, while working as a reporter, he met the former FBI agent who had been the lead investigator on the case, and collaborated with him on a non-fiction book about the Osage investigation. The book never sold, but Grove would put the material to use in his fiction.

    His first novel, FLAME OF THE OSAGE (1957), was also his first fictionalization of the Osage Indian Murder Case. Nearly two decades later, he returned to the case for two more novels, WARRIOR ROAD (1974), about a an Osage Indian who takes it on himself to catch the murderers as a matter of family honor, and DRUMS WITHOUT WARRIORS (1976), about an FBI agent masquerading a a race horse trainer (horse racing was another big interest of Grove's) in order to investigate the murders under cover. His last novel, THE YEARS OF FEAR (2002), essentially a rewrite of the unsold non-fiction book so that it read more like a novel, was his final fictional treatment of the Osage case, this time with the actual names of the characters used. When the book was published, Grove said it was his favorite and most personal novel.

    I was inspired to write my article, "Blood for Oil," after reading an interview with Mr. Grove in which he described the effect that the case had on him as a child, and how it compelled him to re-examine the story in book after book. I wound up winning my own Spu Award for that article. I hope, despite his advanced age, that I might get a change to meet Mr. Grove at the awards ceremony to thank him personally, but that was not possible. I did write him a letter after the ceremony and sent him a copy of the book the article appeared in. He responded with a very nice letter, praising the article, congratulating me on the award, and wishing me luck in my burgeoning writing career.

    Like so may of the story-tellers we lost in 2008, Mr. Grove was not only a fine writer, but a first-class gentleman.



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