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Kitty Genovese: The Murder, the Bystanders, the Crime that Changed America Hardcover – March 3, 2014

ISBN-13: 978-0393239287 ISBN-10: 0393239284 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (March 3, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393239284
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393239287
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 0.1 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (99 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #193,265 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

In the wake of the Kennedy assassination, as America was losing its 1950s innocence and beginning to confront the darker recesses of human behavior, another heinous crime brought the nation’s changing culture into grim focus. In the middle of the night on a dark New York City street, young Kitty Genovese was stabbed to death, her cries for help falling on deaf ears. If any story could be said to “go viral” in those pre-Internet, pre-24/7-cable-news-cycle days, Genovese’s murder captured the world’s attention to an astonishing degree. Headlines of her neighbors’ indifference were as dramatic as those heralding the crime itself. Touted in death as the innocent girl-next-door, Genovese actually wasn’t anything like the portrait painted in fawning newspaper stories, nor was the outrageous apathy of countless witnesses as coldhearted or ubiquitous as the press luridly described. On the fiftieth anniversary of the murder, Cook revisits that tumultuous era and an unspeakable crime that became synonymous with urban indolence and dispassion. --Carol Haggas


“Gripping.” (Amy Finnerty - New York Times)

“Provocative.” (The Wall Street Journal)

“Cook is [an] adept storyteller. His peppy knowing style calls to mind pop-culture products from the time of the murder…he is firmly and persuasively in the revisionist camp.” (The New Yorker)

“Cook debunks the whole parable of the 38 Bad Samaritans and puts forth the real story of what happened.” (AARP)

“Provocative… As much about the alchemy of journalism as urban pathology.” (Edward Kosner - The Wall Street Journal)

“An engrossing true-crime tour de force.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“As much social history as true crime, this is an insightful probe into the notorious case.” (Publishers Weekly)

“Kevin Cook rips the cover off an enduring urban myth. He’s done a first-rate reporting job, one that delivers the truth at last about an infamous murder that came to define an age.” (Kevin Baker, author of The Big Crowd and Paradise Alley)

“Kevin Cook is raising big questions.” (NPR)

“Cook’s restoration helps make Kitty human, not merely iconographic.” (Cleveland Plain Dealer)

“A fully-realized portrait of Kitty… Readers won’t forget that she was a person, not a player in an anecdote.” (Michael Washburn - Boston Sunday Globe)

“Smart…suspenseful. [Cook’s] reporting…is rich and deep.” (Tampa Bay Times)

“[I]mpressive…” (Jordan Michael Smith - Christian Science Monitor)

“Well written and often gripping.” (The Times (London))

“A grim and fascinating history and discussion of the "bystander effect"…this book asks hard questions of human nature.” (Diva)

“Cook’s take on events is intelligent, superbly researched and truly unsettling, making this one of the best true crime books I’ve read in the last few years.” (The Sunday Herald (UK))

More About the Author

Cook is the author of six books including the upcoming Kitty Genovese: The Murder, the Bystanders, the Crime that Changed America and the award-winning Tommy's Honor.

Customer Reviews

This book was well researched, well written, and very insightful.
Patricia B. Mccann
It was good to learn in this book that, although there were several who were too cowardly to do anything, there were others who did try to help poor Kitty.
This was a very good book as it held my attention from Beginning to End.
Marylin Bothwell

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

39 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Travis on February 24, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Winston Churchill is alleged to have remarked "A lie gets half way around the world before the truth gets its pants on". I thought of that saying when it came down to the infamous Kitty Genovese murder of March 13, 1964. The name Kitty Genovese brings up images of neighbors hearing her screams while they pulled up a chair to their windows and watched the murder unfold as if they were watching a TV show. The New York Times infamously proclaimed that 38 of her neighbors saw her being murdered and ignored her cries for help. Nothing could be further from the truth. It turns out that there is a difference between an "eyewitness" (of which there were definitely only three) and “earwitness” who heard something but could not figure out what it was. Many thought it was a drunken spat (there was a bar on Austin Street where the first attack took place) and frankly many of the people who heard something were elderly people who were jolted out of a deep slumber at around 3:30 AM and could not hear the whole thinking correctly as it was a cold night with the windows shut tight. The author does very good research on Kitty Genovese’s short life and of the gay scene of early 1960’s New York City (Kitty was a lesbian and lived with her lover Mary Ann in the apartment in Kew Gardens near where the murder took place) as well as the NYC of the 1964 World’s Fair, and he delves into the character of the sociopath Winston Moseley, a middle class black man with a wife who worked as a nurse, two children, his own home, 5 dogs, a good job and a car - a man though with an inner demon that was dominated by necrophilia. That night Moseley set out to stalk murder and rape a woman and he did just that. It is interesting to contemplate that if the Times did not bring up the false story of 38 witnesses, Kitty Genovese would have been long forgotten.
The book is short, well written and to the point – which I like.
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31 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Jamakaya on June 20, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book by Kevin Cook clarifies many misperceptions about the murder of Kitty Genovese but is flawed by errors and lack of citations. It's a fascinating case, and Cook writes in an easy-to-read style. I appreciate that he aims to correct falsehoods about the famous case but I was put off by several things.

1) The Genovese case is controversial because of many misstatements of fact in the initial reports of the crime. It seems to me essential that in a book that claims to be a final corrective to these mistakes that the author include clear citations to interviews and documents. There are NO footnotes in this book. I know many folks don't read them, but that's no excuse for a major author and publishing company (Norton for heaven's sake!) to leave them out. In a one paragraph "Note on Sources," Cook says that he unearthed "thousands of pages" of new documents on the Genovese case. It is irresponsible and unprofessional not to cite these sources in more specificity. They are needed to prove the veracity of Cook's research and for future historians. Big fail here.

2) Cook seems to speculate at times, making it hard to understand what was speculation and what was fact. Early on, for instance, he references the killer having drinks at a bar where the victim worked. Since this was never brought up again and he does not make clear if a witness told him this, I guess he was just speculating. I am a pretty careful reader, but there are other things like this that left me scratching my head.

3) Even though the book is just over 200 pages, it is padded with lots of extraneous info about the context and culture of the early 1960s in America.
Read more ›
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Helen on March 3, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Recently when I was put in the unfortunate position of having to call the cops on my neighbor who was threatening his wife, it prompted a discussion amongst my relatives. Did I do the right thing? Should I have stayed out of it? My family was split but my cousin brought up Kitty Genovese.
Why is she still a household name after so many decades? Kevin Cook examines this story which, all these years later, is still fascinating and relevant. This was not a simple case of dozens of witnesses knowingly ignoring a heinous crime. There were media angles, law enforcement angles, and a full cast of players beyond the residents of her building. Cook deftly weaves this story into a true crime page turner which sheds light on what exactly went on during that infamous night so long ago.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Gregory Heisler on March 3, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Author Kevin Cook has a way with words that makes all his books thoroughly enjoyable reading. Here he turns his journalist's lens on the Kitty Genovese story but doesn't just report it - he thoroughly illuminates it with fresh research and acute observation, and writes about it in such a way that I just couldn't put the book down...I read it straight through on an international flight. I've already passed it along to a friend. You'll be riveted.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By K. L. Nolan on March 3, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
Kevin Cook's book is a wonder -- for throwing light on the greatest "urban legend" of the 1960s and harnessing the power and glory of his estimable story-telling skills to do it. A lot of us still recall the chilling story of the slain Kitty Genovese. Her name became synonymous for "urban indifference" in the Sixties -- even if you didn't know who Genovese was. I'm probably not the only one who remembers writing an essay about the Kitty Genovese murder for my college freshman rhetoric class years after the killing. After all these decades, it's somewhat comforting to find out that "society" wasn't quite as without pity as we had feared, if for no other reason than knowing Genovese wasn't entirely discarded. But a real bonus here is Cook's exploration of social context and how media, police and the madding crowd created a fable to suit the era. It's also important reading for anyone who wants to understand the seeds of the culture that became the notorious 1960s, which sometimes seem to be an urban legend all their own.
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