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Boss: Richard J. Daley of Chicago

4.17  ·  Rating details ·  1,844 Ratings  ·  196 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
Paperback, 216 pages
Published October 1st 1988 by Plume (first published January 1st 1971)
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Jan 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biographies
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
Mar 03, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: for-school
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.
Jun 27, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: chicagoillinois
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 illuminated many 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 skeptically. It also answered some questions I'd had for a long tim
Jason Smith
Sep 22, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Chicagoans, Richard M. Daley
This devastating account of the first Daley regime works as a kind of history of Chicago from 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 Royko is h
Keith Koeneman
Sep 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Cat Ellington
Dec 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
For me, being a native Southside of Chicagoan, Boss: Richard J. Daley of Chicago, had been a mandatory read. And I must say that the late, great Royko—who had also been one of Chicago's very own—struck a fierce blow with this one.

Boss has to be one of the greatest books ever written, as it chronicles the precipitate climb of Bridgeport's (the Chicago neighborhood, not Connecticut) native son, Richard J. Daley, to his Pew of Power as both Chicago's mayor, and boss of its Democratic Party machine
Sep 14, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Erik Graff
Apr 02, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  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
Jul 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
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.
Dec 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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.
Aug 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
fine fine book- a testament to the shit hole racsism and crooked cops and political machine of daley's chicago. facts no one brings up- lester maddox and bull conner were both at the '68 chicago convention.
Jun 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
Big blast from the past, dated but not dusty.
James Murtha
Aug 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
Nearly fifty years since Mike Royko published this scathing, methodical documentary of the rise and rule of Chicago’s Machine and its iron-fisted monarch, Richard J. Daley, the book reads like a cautionary tale at the six month anniversary of Donald J. Trump’s reign in the White House.
Daley, born of working class Irish immigrants who escaped the potato famine, grew up quiet and hard-working, eschewed alcohol, married another devout catholic and remained faithful to her until his death. He spent
Lenny D
Feb 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Nelson Rosario
Jan 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memory
Not being a native Chicagoan a lot of this book was a surprise to me. I knew a little about Mayor Daley once I moved here, and I am familiar with the city's history generally, but this book adds so much color to that sparse framework.

The book is written by a journalist and it many ways it reads like a juicy extended daily column. That makes sense given that Mike Royko, the author, was a daily columnist for thirty years. The story is larger than life just like the city it takes place in, and the
Jun 24, 2017 added it
for school
Nick Black
Jan 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
one of the finest political books I've ever read -- an incisive takedown of Democrat Machine local politics, yet done in eight-hundred fewer pages than The Power Broker.
Kevin Bernal
Apr 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
“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
Jul 29, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Berneta Haynes
Oct 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
Jul 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
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
Nov 02, 2008 rated it liked it
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
Aug 30, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: journalism, illinois
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
Michael Del Camp
Sep 19, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 27, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"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
Feb 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: politics
Mike Royko's Boss: Richard J. Daley of Chicago profiles the Mayor’s path to power. Royko details not only how Mayor Daley rose to power but how he maintained power, including his use of patronage to reward supporters and punish opponents.

Mayor Richard Daley is almost reminiscent of the fictional President Frank Underwood in House of Cards. Like Underwood, it is unclear what—if anything—Daley actually stands for, aside from remaining in power, though he always has a keen sense of political strate
Oct 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
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
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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
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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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