Books From the Slush Pile: ‘Kitty Genovese’ by Catherine Pelonero

Review Copies

The reject pile! Aspiring authors, avert thine eyes!


This is a sample of review copies that are cast aside in bins to be rummaged through by the staff. Usually they are contemporary genre fiction (“50 Shades of Stealing Maps for the OSS/CIA/NSA/FBI Written by Tom Clancy From Beyond the Grave”), self-help books (“Lose Those Stubborn Last 50 Pounds While Raising Young Einsteins in Five Days!”) and scholarly works (“The Socio-Cultural Effect of the Introduction of the Crimped Bottle Cap in the Belgian Congo.”)

But occasionally there are books that seem somewhat interesting. At least interesting enough to lug back to the Daily Mirror HQ. Because it’s sad to see them junked by the cartload.

kitty_genovese

This week’s subject is “Kitty Genovese,” by Catherine Pelonero, which looks fairly interesting.

As I have often said, I’m not a fan of “true” crime books because they are often poorly researched, heavily fictionalized, sensationalized and often adopt an annoying superior tone. “Kitty Genovese” seems to be an exception. On a brief scan, it seems to be well-documented and carefully written.

A sample:

Pages 136-37

pad from Kitty’s bra had never been disclosed to the press. The only ones who knew that detail were detectives and the Medical Examiner who performed Kitty’s autopsy. And the man who took it.

Moseley said he looked up the stairs one last time before leaving the victim. He didn’t see anybody up there. Yes, the victim was definitely still alive when he left. He walked out the door. “Instead of going back through the parking lot, I walked around the block and came back on the opposite side of the street.” Had he seen anyone at all? “The only thing I saw was a milk truck with a deliveryman in it.” This had to be Edward Fiesler, making a delivery, at the grocery store on Austin Street. °I walked around to the car and back to the street, parallel to the street that I first followed her on, and I started driving home. As I drove home, I threw out the keys, the bottle of makeup, and the case that the pills were in. I got to Hillside Avenue and Van Wyck Expressway and stopped and threw out this false pad from the brassiere that I picked up. From there I went straight home.”

And the hunting knife? “It’s in a toolbox at my house. I washed it first.”

They went over his story again. He remembered that he had changed hats between the first and second attacks. When he first chased her down he had been wearing a dark stocking cap on his head. After going back to his car, he took that off and put on a black fedora before returning to finish the job. He had kept the money he took from Kitty, but he threw her wallet into some bushes at the Raygram parking lot.

He also mentioned the benevolent act he had performed right after the murder. “I got to Hillside Avenue and as I stopped for the light, there was somebody else stopped for the light who was asleep behind the wheel. So I pulled past the light and got out of the car and came back and attempted to wake this person up. He was asleep, with the motor running. I woke him up.”

Then what? The man thanked him and drove away. Moseley got back in his car and proceeded home.

Why didn’t he kill him? He still had his hunting knife. “I did not feel that I wanted to kill that man in particular.”

Why, didn’t you hold him up, take whatever money he had? “Well, I didn’t particularly, need his money. And I was finished with what I planned to do.”

A CALL WAS placed to Lieutenant Bernard Jacobs at the 102nd precinct, letting him know of the breakthrough in the Kitty Genovese homicide. Lieutenant Jacobs would await Moseley’s transport to the 102nd for further questioning. Before sending him over there, John Tartaglia and Albert Seedman at the 114th had another very important question to ask Winston Moseley.

Besides Kitty, Genovese, who else had he killed?

I Moseley didn’t have to think long. The strange smile returned. “That woman over in Jamaica. Annie Mae Johnson.”

Annie Mae Johnson, a twenty-four year old housewife, had been murdered at her South Ozone Park home two and a half weeks before, in the early morning hours of Saturday; February 29. Her husband had been cleared and the police had no other suspects in her homicide. Now Moseley claimed he had done it. If he had indeed killed Kitty Genovese, as it seemed he had, the crime fit his modus operandi. Except for one thing.

“I shot her,” Moseley said.

The detectives groaned, threw up their hands. That had to be a lie. The Medical Examiner had determined that Annie Mae Johnson had been stabbed repeatedly, not shot. The detectives were frustrated. He had so many details right about the Kitty, Genovese case, but if he would lie about having killed Annie Mae Johnson he could be lying about the Genovese case as well.

Moseley did not lose his composure when they, called him a liar. Instead, he looked more content than ever. He kept his cool while the exasperated detectives lost theirs, shouting at him. Some of them left the room. After all that, Moseley was just a weird little thief with a wicked imagination.

“Annie Mae Johnson wasn’t shot, Moseley;” Detective Tartaglia said to him. “She was stabbed.”
I think this one is a keeper.

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About lmharnisch

I work at the Los Angeles Times
This entry was posted in Books and Authors, Crime and Courts and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Books From the Slush Pile: ‘Kitty Genovese’ by Catherine Pelonero

  1. Eve says:

    I have Kevin Cook’s brand-new book about the case on order at the library (I can’t afford to BUY books, and thank goodness I have an excellent local library). The Kitty Genovese case is one of those “New York legends” everyone still knows about, like the Collyer Brothers and the Dot King murder, which I wonder if anyone outside the area has ever heard of. I just saw the 1948 movie Naked City last week, and it was apparently loosely based on Dot King.

  2. I never heard of the Dot King murder until now (anecdotally supporting your theory). Here is a small but evocative picture of King from the Library of Congress: http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/94505439/

  3. Eve says:

    I wanted to write a book about the Dot King murder–there never has been one, and SUCH terrific supporting characters!–but not a single agent or publisher was interested.

  4. Benito says:

    The movie BOYS NIGHT OUT [1962] obliquely refers to a murder case very similar to the Genovese case. James Garner rents a swanky swing pad [with mirrors on the bedroom ceiling!] from Jim Backus and gets very low rent because the apartment had a good view of an infamous murder scene [of a woman]. The problem is that Genovese was murdered in 1964, so BOYS NIGHT OUT must refer to another similar case that occurred earlier. Yikes!

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