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Lifestyle

April 13, 2014

'Kitty Genovese' examines infamous murder with brilliant storytelling

“Kitty Genovese: The Murder, The Bystanders, The Crime That Changed America” by Kevin Cook

c.2014, W.W. Norton; $25.95; 256 pages

You always hold doors open.

That’s because your mama taught you to help others: you hold doors for stragglers, lend your ear, dispense advice, volunteer, donate and keep an eye on your neighbor’s house. Really, it’s no big deal.

You’re a good helper, but how involved do you get in other people’s matters? Read “Kitty Genovese” by Kevin Cook, for example, and ask yourself what you’d do if you heard a murder.

By all accounts, Catherine “Kitty” Genovese was a nice girl with a great smile and a generous spirit. As the manager of a local bar near her Queens, New York neighborhood, Kitty was trustworthy, good with customers, and was known to loan money to regulars in need. She made friends easily and was an “adventurous, troubled but optimistic, hard-working, fast-driving, living, breathing person…”

Until the morning of March 13, 1964.

It was just after 3 a.m. that morning and Kitty was on her way home to the apartment she shared with her girlfriend, Mary Ann Zielonko. Most people thought they were just roommates and, though it wasn’t quite the truth, the women let others believe it because it was safer. In 1964, homosexuality was still illegal.

She was in her beloved red Fiat and was driving fast, as she usually did. Perhaps because of the hour, Kitty didn’t notice that she was being followed.

Quiet, soft-spoken Winston Moseley had done something noteworthy for a Negro man in 1964: he’d purchased a house in an up-and-coming, mostly white neighborhood where he and his wife, Betty, were raising their boys. Between his good job and Betty’s salary, they were relatively well-off but Betty sometimes worried about Winston. He was an insomniac and liked “just thinking.” What she didn’t know was that he was “thinking” about killing.

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