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Boss: Richard J. Daley of Chicago

4.16 of 5 stars 4.16  ·  rating details  ·  1,434 ratings  ·  155 reviews
This is the story of the late Richard J. Daley, politician and self-promoter extraordinaire, from his inauspicious youth on Chicago’s South Side through his rapid climb to the seat of power as mayor and boss of the Democratic Party machine. A bare-all account of Daley’s cardinal sins as well as his milestone achievements, this scathing work by Chicago journalist Mike Royko ...more
Paperback, 216 pages
Published October 1st 1988 by Plume (first published January 1st 1971)
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Wow. This book was fantastic. Like Nelson Algren, I think Boss should be essential reading for a life-long Chicagoan. I don't look at the city the same way. The buildings, the city's workings, even articles in the Chicago Tribune--it all looks different to me now. It's a good thing, although not necessarily for Chicago.
Keith Koeneman
What are the strengths and weaknesses of Boss as book? On the positive side, Royko knows how to write a beautiful sentence. He also knows Chicago, and captures Daley and the city at a key juncture in American urban history. Moreover, Rokyo is an honest writer, which gives his words an emotional power, a resonance that lingers somewhere deep in the reader. On the flip side, Rokyo may have been too close to his subject -- too deeply and emotionally engaged -- to place Daley in a broader historical ...more
Jason Smith
Oct 19, 2008 Jason Smith rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Chicagoans, Richard M. Daley
This devastating account of the first Daley regime works as a kind of history of Chicago history of the fifties through the sixties. I say that because Daley had a desire to have absolute control when possible and domineering influence when the previous proved difficult. Its not hard to see why Daley wanted the book banned and his wife was going around vandalizing copies in book stores.

This is a truly damning book if ever there was one. But at the heart of all the vitriol being piled on by Royk
Royko's writing style wears a bit thin at times (he was a columnist for the Sun-Times, and most of the book is written in that sort of punchy, jump-to-conclusions, one-sentence-paragraph style) but overall this is an excellent and accessible introduction to some of the ugly political legacies and relationships that continue to define Chicago's governance.

The book also provided me with some provocative questions about the relationships between political power, organized labor, and equity. Obviou
Mike Royko must have had balls of steel to write this book in 1971, during the heyday of the Chicago Machine! Royko knew the city and all those running it, inside-out. The intimate political details of all who ran "The Machine" could not have been well received when this book debuted.

I still miss reading Mike Royko's columns in the Trib. He was one of the last great journalists who still did a damn good job! He certainly didn't pander to anyone, i.e. "Faux News, etc."

Unexpected takeaway: In lig
Erik Graff
Jan 23, 2013 Erik Graff rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Royko fans
Recommended to Erik by: Einar Graff
Shelves: biography
I found this among Dad's books when I got home from college during the Christmas break and read it in a sitting. Neither definitive nor scholarly, it's still a mildly amusing tale of Daley, Chicago politics and his rise to power within it.

I only saw Richard J. Daley in the flesh once, at the annual downtown St. Patrick's Day parade sometime during high school when my friends and I had managed to obtain positions across the street from his reviewing stand. It was a cold, grey day. The parade was
Boss is an excellent and pithy volume that profiles Richard J. Daley, mayor of Chicago from 1955 until his death in 1976 and chairman of the Democratic Party of Cook County for even longer. As the top man in a well-oiled political machine, Daley was often considered corrupt as political offices were often filled with patronage posts and nepotism while public works projects came in well over budget after politically-connected contractors were chosen. Daley, in his own fumbling manner, tackled the ...more
This book made me quite nostalgic, not for the Daley administration, but for reading Mike Royko's daily columns in the Chicago newspapers. There is no figure on the Chicago journalism scene (such as it is) who comes close to his knowledge of the city and its political machinations. This book provides a quick primer on Chicago politics. There really is no way to understand the current political landscape in the city without understanding its antecedents.
"An Irishman who came here hating only the Englishmen and Irish Protestants soon hated Poles, Italians, and blacks. A Pole who was free arrived hating only Jews and Russians, but soon learned to hate the Irish, the Italians, and the blacks." (31)

"Daley's name had to be written in on the Republican side of the ballot. Richard Daley was elected to his first public office as, of all things, a Republican." (46)

"Now there was a program, and Daley liked it. Give them water. ... Portable swimming polls
Kevin Bernal
“Boss: Richard J. Daley of Chicago” is a book written by Mike Royko following the story of a politician who ruled Chicago. The author who wrote this was a newspaper columnist who followed Daley closely and was capable of displaying his knowledge in the paper. This book follows Richard J. Daley’s rise up the political ladder as he took control and made bold decisions to win over the people of Chicago. Daley was born in 1902 and lived in a Roman Catholic home. He lived in Bridgeport Chicago and wa ...more
i finally finished this rowdy book that could be read in a single sitting at a noisy bar. what can i say? so little has changed. i am fascinated by what the current mayor thinks of his father and how he believes his regime differs. and I will never look the same way at "Venetian Night" again.
Matthew Mitchell
Timeless and gut-wrenching

An honest and unflinching look at the good, the bad and the ugly of the man who was neither the first Boss nor the last Boss but quite possibly the biggest Boss - but more importantly, what it cost one man, one city and millions of people to take that man to the top and keep him there. Crediting Daley for his ballsiness but never excusing or sparing Daley judgment for his ability to be both casually and deliberately cruel, a short and intense look at American Machine po
Lenny D
I can't imagine a much better reading experience on the subject of American politics.

I wanted to learn more about the original Mayor Daley. The extent of my knowledge about the old man came from the shaded nostalgia of my lifelong-Chicagoan parents and the title of the book American Pharaoh, mixed with my own assumptions of the mythic power of the man who preceded and paved the way for my own Mayor Daley's iron-fisted reign. As an ancillary, I looked forward to finally reading something by Mike
Randi Lawrence
This book is absolutely fascinating, and also made me extremely angry. Having lived in Chicago for three years now, I've heard the names of both father Mayor Daley and son Mayor Daley thrown around everywhere. Everyone knows what Daley Plaza is, and there are myriad other projects around the city named after both of them. That being said, I had absolutely no idea how horribly racist and power-crazed Mayor Richard J Daley was. Royko provides a horrifying view into the Democratic Machine, and the ...more
Mike Royko was a newspaper columnist in Chicago while Richard J. Daley (middle initial J. = pere M. = fils). was "da mare" of Chicago when it was, under Daley's Democratic political machine, the original "city that works." Royko was persona non grata in City Hall and he seemed to relish that status. The man could certainly stir the pot! While this book lays it on pretty thick, it's well grounded in fact. I grew up in a Chicago suburb and lived there during the Martin Luther King, Jr. march on th ...more
Boss truly brings you into a critical time in Chicago politics, portraying the rise of Richard J. Daley, the last of the big city machine mayors. The book is fascinating because it is written from a journalistic point of view (Mike Royko, the author, was a long-time Chicago newspaper columnist) and therefore allows Daley's actions to speak for themselves rather than providing the reader with a set interpretation. There can be no doubt that Chicago avoided the decline in this period that so many ...more
I honestly cannot think of a book more incisive, damning, heartbreaking, and socially important than this book. I do not say that lightly. No other book I've ever read more graphically details the inner workings of American politics and political actors in a major American city. I would go so far as to suggest that Mike Royko's detailed account of former Chicago Mayor Richard Daley exemplifies the political reality of many, if not most, American cities regardless of size. Furthermore, the politi ...more
A very well-written narrative of Richard J. Daley, his Democratic political machine, and his city of Chicago.
While Royko starts off fairly sympathetic of Daley as just a politico who diligently rises up party and government ranks (thanks in part to an awful lot of unrelated, timely deaths), the second half of the book on Daley's reign as mayor of Chicago is gripping but wearying. Royko paints Mayor Daley as a boss that cares about strengthening his own power base over helping his citizens or his
The men who run big cities are fascinating creatures. They are almost always narcissistic, insecure, intellectual brutes with a desire for everyone to fear them and love that order. There is no greater example of "The Machine" at work, with it's endless patronage, Ward bosses, bureaucratic shuffling, and endless strategy than the reign of Chicago's Richard J. Daley. Part Everyman, Part Ruthless Thug, Part Benevolent King, Richard J. Daley was a fascinating figure to watch in his work, ...more
I got this book out of a stack from my mom. It was only after I started reading it, and was led to do some outside research that I discovered it's a classic of city journalism.

This hard hitting account of the reign of Mayor Richard J. Daley really opened my eyes to a lot of things about the great city of Chicago. It put into perspective some of the things going on now, and made me look at our current mayor, Mayor Richard M. Daley, a little more sceptically. It also answered some questions I'd h
This book was excellent, of course. Mike Royko is one of the most brilliant writers that I've ever read. The book isn't a definitive history (It's lacking in details, statistics, and facts). Rather, it is a sort of narrative, detailing the history of The Machine in Chicago and of Richard Daley, who was its best personification. I can't decide whether this book makes me feel optimistic or pessimistic. On the one hand, this book makes me feel dreadfully depressed about humanity's collective intell ...more
Royko is so amazing, every sentence is funny, informative and loaded with hidden meaning. I read this book maybe 20 years ago while I was still living in Chicago, when Royko was still alive, when Daley Sr. was still fresh in my memory; it was great then, but is even more interesting to me now that I live far outside the city limits, Royko is gone and Richie Jr. is in charge of the city.
Back then, reading Boss was a little like reading the newspaper; now it feels different, more like reading his
Michael Del Camp
I really enjoyed reading Author Mike Royko's columns in the major Chicago metropolitan daily newspaper, where for a brief time, we both worked. His book about the political patronage system of the Chicago Democratic "Machine" so-called, while interesting and well informed, overlooks the supreme viciousness of the Illinois Republican "Machine" as I call it. We have one here, where I live now: a vicious Republican political "Machine" running Manchester, New Hampshire like a Vassal State. Neither M ...more
Casey Toner
The best kind of journalism. Tough, insightful, devoid of bullshit. Not just a savage political take down, but an insightful portrait of a brawling politician who used his office like a blunt object. To crush his enemies and outsiders, and build his city, his machine. Read "Boss," to see see why so many local and national figures lined up to kiss Daley's ring. This should be taught in every political science college in America.
From 1955 to 1976, Richard J. Daley was the mayor of Chicago and the undisputed boss of Chicago politics. In 1971, reporter Mike Royko published a book about Daley’s rise to power and his firm grip on it. Boss is a fascinating story of the Chicago machine that still in some form exists today.
The first and last chapters of this book are perfect. Everything in between is pretty much just as good but nothing quite matches the way Mike Royko opens and closes this book. Completely scathing, and kind of like poetry. I read that when this book -- which, when you get right down to it, is about how meticulously Daley controlled every single aspect of Chicago -- was released during his fifth term, Daley tried to pressure 200 Chicago bookstores not to carry it, but it was too popular and they ...more
Rick Homuth
Man, what a cool book. Mayor Daley is such a fascinating character, even if he was a monumentally racist shitbag. There are so many incredible stories and quotes in this book that I almost want to start it again.
Royko brings the reader inside "Daley's Chicago": the self-contained, autocratic system of patronage, revenge, graft, corruption, nepotism and racism that Daley built and wholly mastered. He does so with such a wonderful combination of wit, sarcasm and knowing-cynism that we feel we have somehow won the confidence of a smokey old hand who is bringing us in on the secret ways of the city and the world. And it feels good. So when Royko abruptly reverses tone to moral outrage at Daley's miserable c ...more
I wish to sum this book up in just a few sentences because it is impossible for my rambling to fully capture the full essence of why this book is such an important read.

I could go on and on about how "Boss" is essential reading for anyone who is looking for an honest, no punches pulled history lesson about the rich history of "Chicago politics" and its most famous mayor, the late Richard J. Daley. But I will just say this... Mike Royko was by far the most clever, smart, and controversial of most
Well researched, detailed, entertaining story of the rise of Chicago's longest serving mayor and how he used the office to make and remake Chicago in his image.
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Pulitzer prize columnist, Mike Royko was nationally known for his caustic sarcasm. Over his 30 year career he wrote for three leading Chicago newspapers, "The Daily News", "The Sun-Times", and "The Chicago Tribune", and was nationally syndicated.

The Polish-Ukranian son of a cab driver, Royko grew up on Chicago's southside and never left the city. At age 64, he died in Chicago of complications aris
More about Mike Royko...
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“Behind the high-rises are the crumbling, crowded buildings where the lower-income people live. No answer has been found to their housing problems because the real estate people say there's not enough profit in building homes for them. And beyond them are the middle-income people, who can't make it to the high-rises and can't stay where they are because the schools are inadequate, the poor are pushing toward them, and nothing is being done about their problems, so they move to the suburbs.

When their children grow up and they retire, maybe then they can move to a lake front high-rise.”
“The neighborhood-towns were part of larger ethnic states. To the north of the Loop was Germany. To the northwest was Poland. To the west were Italy and Israel. To the southwest were Bohemia and Lithuania. And to the south was ireland...

you could always tell, even with your eyes closed, which state you were in by the odors of the food stores and the open kitchen windows, the sound of the foreign or familiar language, and by whether a stranger hit you in the head with a rock.”
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