April 2, 2014 at 10:00 am EST | by Terri Schlichenmeyer
Anatomy of a murder
Kitty Genovese, books, gay news, Washington Blade

(Image courtesy W.W. Norton)

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 and 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 black 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.

In early March 1964, Moseley committed the “particularly gruesome” murder of a black woman, then calmly went to work. He wondered if killing a white woman would be any different. Two weeks later, while driving around, looking for a victim, he spotted a little red Fiat and had a “compulsion” to find out.

You might be asking yourself what’s so unusual about a 50-year-old crime. Author Kevin Cook will tell you as he takes you on a journey through the early 1960s and a death that literally impacts everyone in North America today.

But that’s not all you’ll read in “Kitty Genovese.”

Cook reminds us in many ways that Genovese was more than just a victim, that she was a real person who loved life. On the flipside, we meet the neighbors who supposedly ignored her cries and we’re shown the slow making of a “monster” who seems chillingly without conscience. Cook uses these parallel stories to illustrate what happened as he busts myths that still linger to this day.

There are outrageous surprises in this book, some heartbreak, and passages that are grisly enough to make anyone squirm. But if you’re a true-crime fan or you love good storytelling, “Kitty Genovese” is a book you can’t help but devour.

And if Cook’s book piques your interest and you absolutely need to know more about this crime and the aftermath, then look for “Kitty Genovese: A True Account of a Public Murder and Its Private Consequences” by Catherine Pelonero.

Here, Pelonero takes a deeper look at Moseley and the murders he committed prior to the attacks on Genovese. You’ll also get a few more details on the trial that followed Moseley’s arrest. It’s a nice companion to the Cook book for anyone who’s still curious.

1 Comment
  • I am writing to submit my novel for your consideration. I am a 44-year-old, gay, white, male semi-retired attorney with a specialty in anti-money laundering. While I have lived in Washington DC for more than twenty years, I grew up in a one-traffic-light town in central Ohio with my extended family largely in West Virginia.

    During my early, semi-retirement, I have researched and written my first novel inspired by real events in West Virginia from the 1950’s – 1971 (the full book description is included below). I have currently made it available as an e-book and would be very happy to send you the MOBI file if you would do me the honor of wanting to read it and maybe even review it.

    Thank you in advance for your time and consideration.


    Emanuel (emanuel.wears@gmail.com)

    GROTESQUE, my first novel, explores the effects of lovelessness, bad “science,” and geographic isolation on a young boy’s life as he comes of age.

    Kent Tucker, a young boy living in Appalachia in the 1950s, does best when he goes unnoticed. But when the fates conspire to bring him to the attention of this harsh family and his isolated community, tragedy ensues. Without fully understanding why, Kent finds himself in a state-run mental institution, where he is treated for a “pathology” off-and-on for years to come. The treatment transforms him — he is irreparably damaged, rendered grotesque. When, after being warehoused for years, he is finally freed, he once again becomes the center of attention by committing unthinkable crimes, crimes that no one will ever, ever forget.


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