A Pipe for February: A Novel

Overview

At the turn of the twentieth century, the Osage Indians owned Oklahoma’s most valuable oil reserves and became members of the world’s first wealthy oil population. Osage children and grandchildren continued to respect the old customs and ways, but now they also had lives of leisure: purchasing large homes, expensive cars, eating in fancy restaurants, and traveling to faraway places. In the 1920s, they also found themselves immersed in a series of murders. Charles H. Red Corn sets A Pipe for February against this ...

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Overview

At the turn of the twentieth century, the Osage Indians owned Oklahoma’s most valuable oil reserves and became members of the world’s first wealthy oil population. Osage children and grandchildren continued to respect the old customs and ways, but now they also had lives of leisure: purchasing large homes, expensive cars, eating in fancy restaurants, and traveling to faraway places. In the 1920s, they also found themselves immersed in a series of murders. Charles H. Red Corn sets A Pipe for February against this turbulent, exhilarating background.

Tracing the experiences of John Grayeagle, the story’s main character, Red Corn describes the Osage murders from the perspective of a traditional Osage. Other books on the notorious crimes have focused on the greed of government officials and businessmen to increase their oil wealth. Red Corn focuses on the character of the Osage people, drawing on his own experiences and insights as a member of the Osage Tribe.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Red Corn bases his debut novel on a real-life series of murders that plagued the Osage Indians in the 1920s. The Osage of Oklahoma had been extraordinarily wealthy since the turn of the century, when it was discovered that their land held vast oil reserves. Now, they try to "live in both the past and the future," enjoying the big cars, fancy homes, European clothes and foreign travel bought with the money from the leased oil wells while nominally retaining many of the old traditions. All this is threatened by a rash of strange, "accidental" deaths. Protagonist John Grayeagle observes the emotional toll of these deaths on the tribe; as the victims receive full tribal funerals, elders warn that the so-called accidents are really murders by resentful whites, and will not stop until the Osage fight back instead of assimilating. When John's grandfather dies, John becomes certain that his close friend, Molly, is next on the hit list. He teams up with Tom, a patriotic WWI vet who grew up with John's family, to find the killers. While the culprits are the predictable lot of greedy whites seeking to profit from the oil-rich land, the story is an enthralling one with some taut, slam-bang action. Yet it's Red Corn's loving descriptions of Osage customs and the moral dilemmas posed by their sudden wealth that make this book a particularly rewarding read. (Nov.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Red Corn's debut, the 44th volume in the American Indian Literature Series, is an unusual but flat tale of oil wealth and a string of mysterious fatal accidents among the Osage tribe in the 1920s. In the midst of an ongoing oil boom that has made all his tribe wealthy, aspiring artist John Grayeagle has been living with his grandpa near Pawhuska, Oklahoma, after his parents were killed in a car wreck. When his elder sickens and dies, however, leaving a sizable estate to him, John is thrust into a position of responsibility-a position he's clearly not ready for. The days of idle conversation with friends over tea and French pastries continue as John alternates between trying to decide what to paint and whether to take direct control of his inheritance instead of letting the Bureau of Indian Affairs handle it. The latter decision is complicated by conflicting advice from the lawyer father of the white woman he's seeing and his own family attorney. But when two close friends his age die separately and suspiciously, John begins to understand that the issues of tribal wealth and mortal danger are related. With the aid of family friends and his own contacts, he pieces together an ugly puzzle of fraud and murder, and in the process makes the connection to his heritage that allows him to find meaning as an artist. Thematically rich, but with cardboard characters.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780806134543
  • Publisher: University of Oklahoma Press
  • Publication date: 11/28/2002
  • Series: American Indian Literature Series
  • Pages: 270
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.70 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Charles H. Red Corn is an independent writer living in Norman, Oklahoma. He is a member of the Tzishuwashtahgi Clan (Peace Clan) of the Osage Tribe.

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