Where the Crawdads Sing is about to hit theaters. The first novel of Delia Owens was an international best-seller thanks in part to an endorsement from Reese Witherspoon, but it has a rather disturbing history lurking behind its creation. A real murder is connected to the novel. Let’s discover the story.
The Novel Was Met With Critical Acclaim
The 2018 novel Where the Crawdads Sing uses two interweaving storylines to tell the story of a girl growing up in a marsh, and a murder investigation taking place in the larger town surrounding where she lives. Witherspoon selected it for her Hello Sunshine Book Club in September 2018, and Barnes & Noble named it one of its best books. To date, it’s sold over 12 million copies. For perspective, that’s just a hair shy The Old Man And The Sea. It’s a megahit that has dominated bestseller lists for years.
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Witherspoon snapped up the film rights, and now a movie adaptation is about to hit theaters. Daisy Edgar-Jones is getting rave reviews as the film’s lead, but the movie overall is not a critical darling. It’s resting at 37% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Before becoming a novelist, Owens lived in Africa for decades with her husband Mark Owens. They’re conservationists. The two have written three memoirs about their time on the continent, but they’re not allowed to return. That’s because they’re wanted for questioning in a murder. The tale was detailed in an 18,000 word New Yorker story.
Beginning in 1986, Delia and Mark began assisting the Zambian government after getting kicked out of Botswana. The two wanted to preserve the local animal population but discovered poachers were ravaging the local elephants for their tusks—the ivory market is extremely profitable. The local park service scouts lacked the equipment necessary to combat the poachers, so the Owenses decided to “help.”
According to the New Yorker, the couple raised money for better pay and equipment. Mark became the alleged leader of the scouts where they began essentially hunting the poachers. Mark proudly wrote in one disputed letter that his scouts had killed two poachers and “are just getting warmed up.”
Everything came to a head in 1996 when an ABC News segment covered the “shoot to kill” policy. The murder of a poacher, allegedly by the Owenses’ son Christopher Owens, was caught on film. To this day, Christopher and Mark are wanted for questioning. The family fled the country not long after.
The Owens Family Denies Everything
Delia and Mark Owens deny that any such allegations against them are true, though they have been warned by the US government to avoid Zambia. There are numerous connections to Owens’ personal life in the novel, so it’s certainly possible the “shoot-to-kill” policy and subsequent manhunt have bled their way into the popular story.