Kitty Genovese: The Murder, the Bystanders, the Crime That Changed America

Kevin Cook, Author
Kevin Cook. Norton, $25.95 (288p) ISBN 978-0-393-23928-7
Open Ebook - 288 pages - 978-0-393-24291-1
Paperback - 256 pages - 978-0-393-35057-9
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In his latest book, Cook (Titanic Thompson) disproves the popular belief about the 1964 murder of Catherine “Kitty” Genovese in Kew Gardens, Queens—that 38 neighbors watched her being stabbed to death from the safety of their apartment windows, and did nothing to help, a phenomenon dubbed the “Bystander Effect” by social scientists. One neighbor did call the police immediately, but the notion that so many failed to respond struck a nerve, bolstered by the New York Times’ coverage, and Times editor A.M. Rosenthal’s book Thirty-Eight Witnesses. The ensuing clamor led to the creation of the 911 emergency phone system, “Good Samaritan” laws, and the development of the field of pro-social behavior—designed to turn bad neighbors into good ones. Cook never loses sight of the victim, tracing the arc of Genovese’s 27 years of life, and presenting the memories of her partner, Mary Ann Zielonko. Cook also offers a nuanced rendering of Genovese’s murderer, Winston Moseley, with ample details of his trial. In an especially moving section, Cook notes the chance elements that put Genovese in harm’s way. As much social history as true crime, this is an insightful probe into the notorious case, 50 years later. 16 pages of photos. (Mar.)
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