Friday, August 29, 2008

Death in a Prairie House

A couple of weeks ago I posted an entry about Loving Frank: a novel by Nancy Horan. I was prompted to read more about this fictionalized account of the murders that took place in 1914 at Frank Lloyd Wright’s home and architectural gem, Taliesin. Fortunately, there is also a fairly new non-fiction book about this subject. Death in a Prairie House: Frank Lloyd Wright and the Taliesin Murders by William R. Drennan is a thorough account of the murders, the fire that destroyed most of Taliesin and some before & after accounts of Wright’s life. Drennan based his book on extensive research including interviews, various Wright biographies, newspaper articles, memoirs and even local gossip. He does an excellent account of comparing various versions of the murders and inserting his own opinions on the events.

The descriptions of the actual murders are somewhat gruesome, but it was a terrible act of violence and this non-fiction account makes it that much more realistic. Drennan’s tone can be casual at times and overly academic at other times. The author also interjects odd facts and anecdotes which lightens the tone and also places the events in their historical context. Drennan includes information about Wright’s childhood and family which helps the reader understand more about his personality, and he ends the book with information about how this event influenced Wright’s future as an architect. I preferred reading Loving Frank first because Drennan’s book makes some assumptions that the reader is already familiar with the story and it also helped me realize which parts of Horan’s book were truly fictionalized. My quest about Wright will continue next with DVDs including the Ken Burns and Lynn Novick film, Frank Lloyd Wright.

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