THE PAUL COWAN NON-FICTION AWARD, first given 1990, was named to honor Paul Cowan, a Peace Corps Volunteer who served in Ecuador from 1966 to 1967. Cowan wrote about his time as a Volunteer in Latin America in the ’60s. A longtime activist and political writer for The Village Voice, Cowan died of leukemia in 1988.
Every Hill a Burial Place
The Peace Corps Murder Trial in East Africa
by Peter H. Reid (Tanzania 1964-66)
On March 28, 1966, Peace Corps personnel in Tanzania received word that volunteer Peppy Kinsey had fallen to her death while rock climbing during a picnic. Local authorities arrested Kinsey’s husband, Bill, and charged him with murder as witnesses came forward claiming to have seen the pair engaged in a struggle. The incident had the potential to be disastrous for both the Peace Corps and the newly independent nation of Tanzania. To this day, the high stakes surrounding the trial raise questions as to whether there was more behind the final “not-guilty” verdict than was apparent on the surface.
Peter H. Reid, who served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Tanzania at the time of the Kinsey murder trial, draws upon his considerable legal experience to expose inconsistencies and biases in the case. He carefully scrutinizes the collection of evidence and the ensuing investigation, providing insight into the motives and actions of both the Peace Corps representatives and the Tanzanian government officials involved. Reid does not attempt to prove the verdict wrong, but critically examines the events of Kinsey’s death, her husband’s trial, and the incident’s aftermath through a variety of cultural, political, racial, and gendered points of view.
This compelling account sheds new light on a notable yet overlooked Cold War-era incident involving non-state actors. Meticulously researched and replete with intricate detail, Every Hill a Burial Place explores the possibility that the course of justice was compromised and offers a commentary on the delicacy of cross-national and cross-cultural diplomacy.
“Every Hill a Burial Place combines the suspense of a fictional legal thriller with a fascinating look at the early days of the Peace Corps in Africa. I enjoyed it as a former criminal defense attorney, a writer of legal thrillers and a former Peace Corps Volunteer who served in Africa at the time of the trial.” Phillip Margolin, New York Times Bestselling author of A Reasonable Doubt and a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, Liberia, West Africa 1965-1967
“Peter Reid transforms the gripping story of a Peace Corps volunteer death and the acquittal of her husband into an epic study of the Peace Corps from its first days during the Kennedy administration to the present. And, the fact that he successfully places this human tragedy within the complicated and troublesome days of Cold War and after makes the book a stunning achievement. It is an amazing, suspenseful report about two young American volunteers in Tanzania that also deepens our understanding of the Peace Corps, America and their entangled history for the last six decades.”—David Rudenstine, dean emeritus of the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University. Author of The Day the Presses Stopped and The Age of Deference.
“An authoritative analysis of a personal tragedy in Tanzania that threatened the survival of the Peace Corps in its earliest days. The stakes could not have been higher, and Reid captures with great skill the impact of a complex family drama on the Corps and its relationship with a host country.”—Carol Bellamy, former director of the Peace Corps and former Executive Director of UNICEF. Peace Corps (Guatemala 1963-65)
“Peter Reid’s account of the 1966 Tanzanian murder trial of Peace Corps volunteer Bill Kinsey is suspenseful and gripping. It is also a careful, judicial examination of the difficulties the Peace Corps faced in balancing its responsibilities to the deceased, the accused, and to US relations with Tanzania. Both the research and presentation are masterful.”—John Hamilton, former US ambassador to Peru and Guatemala
“The violent death of a Peace Corps teacher in Tanzania has shocked, saddened, tantalized, and perplexed the Peace Corps community for over 50 years. Was Peppy Kinsey’s death a horrific accident, or did her husband Bill batter her to death, as some African witnesses claimed? Exhaustive, coherent, thoughtful, and suspenseful, Peter H. Reid’s account of the Kinsey murder trial and its aftermath could well be the final word on this dark event — unless, of course, this remarkable book triggers even newer revelations.”—Richard Lipez, author of the Donald Strachey series and Peace Corps teacher in Ethiopia (1962-64)
Peter H. Reid, retired founding director of the Community Law Clinic at Stanford Law School, previously served for more than thirty years as executive director of the Legal Aid Society of San Mateo County. He lives in Olympia, Washington and Santa Cruz, California with his wife Barbara.