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Boss: Richard J. Daley of Chicago Paperback – October 1, 1988

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

First published in 1971 when the late Daley was mayor of Chicago, this classic "provides a detailed and, for some, eye-opening account of Daley's rise to absolute control of the Chicago Democratic political machine," said PW , finding the book "sardonic and sometimes hilarious reading."
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc.


"The best book ever written about an American city, by the best journalist of his time. Perhaps it will stand as the best book ever written about the American condition at this time. It comes at you from the saloons and neighborhoods, the police stations and political backrooms. It is about lies and viciousness, about the worship of cement and the hatred toward blacks, about troubling cowardice that hides behind religion and patriotism while the poor get clubbed and killed. … Royko’s book also does more written damage to a man than perhaps anything I have ever read. … I know of no place where it will not be read and quoted and kept and read again."
— Jimmy Breslin

“A pungent and precise portrait of how big-city politics work. And it is brisk and lively reading in the bargain. … Muckraking at its best, a remorseless book that bites and tears.”
— Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, The New York Times

“There’s nobody better than Mike Royko writing politics anywhere in the country today. About the book? It’s Daley; Royko’s got him to the life. And it’s Chicago. Even if you’ve never been there you know it’s Chicago. A fine job.”
—Russell Baker, The New York Times

"Stunning, astonishing, myth-shattering!"
— Studs Terkel, New York Times Book Review

"Without question the most devastating dissection of a personal municipal fief I've ever read … Brilliant!"
— John Barkham, Saturday Review Syndicate

"A great book … Chicago and the lesser towns that make up urban America may or may not die. But you won't understand why they hurst so much until you read Boss."
The Washington Post


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 216 pages
  • Publisher: Plume (October 1, 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0452261678
  • ISBN-13: 978-0452261679
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (68 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #75,649 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

42 of 45 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 21, 2000
Format: Paperback
You don't have to be from Chicago to appreciate this book andRoyko's genius as a writer and wry political observer.
His almostmatter-of-fact accounting of the machine corruption in Chicago under Daley is eye opening. Those who analogize it to the Mafia are on point, except its power the politicians are after, rather than just money. It's unbelievable to me that all of the venality was so out in the open and tolerated by the populace.
Particularly interesting was his account of the ethnic and racial evolution in this melting pot of a city. Italian, Polish, Irish, German, and Slavic neighborhoods whose only common theme was their hatred of the blacks. The paradox being that despite the white hatred, the segregation and appalling living conditons, those same white people could count on the black vote come election time, largely because of unscrupulous black ward bosses who cared more about power than helping their constituents.
One of the many things I like about Royko is that after reading his columns for years, I couldn't tell you whether his politics are liberal or conservative. He didn't deal in bromides, just reality. When something wasn't right, he called it on the perpetrators and wasn't hesitant to name names. I really miss the guy.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By P. McGonagill on February 23, 2006
Format: Paperback
Royko's classic portrait of Daley and "his" Chicago is perhaps most distinguished by its narrator. While the facts remain the same between this book and others such as American Pharoah, the profound attachment and understanding of a man who spent his professional career writing about the same city that shaped Daley creates a much more colorful and intricate perspective on mid 20th century Chicago. Presented as a journalistic piece rather than a heavily footnoted history or political science text, Boss engages the reader on a more narrative than statistical level. Through personal stories of machine "grunts" and smoke filled rooms, Royko accomplishes more in just over 200 pages than the statistical tome American Pharoah does in over 600. It comes down to one necessary and incontrovertable fact: only a Chicagoan can truly understand and synthesize the experience and leadership of his or her city. East-coasters can write about the "City with Big Shoulders" until their knuckles seize up, but they will not be able to truly appreciate the subtleties of Chicago's culture and psyche. As a highly respected voice in Chicago journalism who was at loggerheads with Mayor Daley on numerous occasions, Royko presents an honest and faithful version of Chicago and its mayor.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Franklin the Mouse on March 13, 2009
Format: Paperback
The late Mike Royko knew Chicago and how it worked. His writing style is a perfect match for the subject matter. This book doesn't waste oodles of time psychoanalyzing everyone of Daley's actions. Mr. Royko lays out in a few pages what makes the little streetfighting, political opportunist tick and then focuses on the underbelly of Chicago politics. Also, the reader will not be treated to flowery prose but a blunt, dissection of the Democrat "Machine" that ran Chicago with an iron fist. This is raw power manipulating the system to get what it wants. Politicians, easily manipulated news organizations in print (especially The Chicago Tribune) and television, racist attitudes which created and perpetuated black slums, pandering to big business thru largesse and a corrupt, brutal police force. And talk about shades of George W. Bush... due to Daley's politcal connections, his sons avoided Vietnam by jumping over a long waiting list of other candidates and being given plum reserves positions. Mr. Royko's work is not just an outstanding assessment of Chicago, but power in general. This small book packs a lot of punch. Well worth reading.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Robert Reid on March 5, 2006
Format: Paperback
This is a serious and ambitious coverage of the internal workings of Chicago government. This book didn't make me laugh as Royko's "Sez Who? Sez Me!" did, but is so insightful and well-written that this reader, not too knowledgeable about politics, thoroughly enjoyed it.

The story is important because it uncovers a truth otherwise overlooked by the media (for example, what really happened at the police riots at the 1968 Democratic Convention). Amazingly, despite the ugliness of the politics portrayed, Royko's writing is not too judgemental; any judgement of Daley is left to the reader. As Royko describes the rise of Daley's Machine, it becomes clear that the motivation behind most of Daley's actions was simply to keep his enemies powerless and keep the Machine's dominance intact, even when it means promoting inept allies to positions of power or neglecting the needs of Chicago's most struggling people.
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23 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Brian D. Rubendall HALL OF FAME on May 11, 2000
Format: Paperback
Royko's "Boss," lamentably the only book-length work of his brilliant career, is also one of the absolute best books ever written about urban politics. Royko knew Chicago. The city was in his blood. As such, he knew Mayor Daley the elder better than anyone who was not a family member or a member of his administration. Royko shows how the since-deceased Democratic machine ran Chicago, both for the good and the bad. Read it, and you will understand the likes of Congressman Dan Rostenkowski, who ended up in jail because he continued to practice machine politics long after the machine had died. Hats off to Mike Royko. This book is his masterpiece.
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