Mike Royko’s Boss is the definitive book on understanding Mayor Richard J. Daley of Chicago and how a man modern times sees as a thug and a racist won the genuine affections of thousands.
If you only read the opening chapter, Royko (Who was as much a character himself as Mayor Daley, and straight out of central casting as the hardbitten big city newsman.) paints a picture of a day in the life of Daley, and it is fascinating. Royko blamed Daley, by the way, for the 1968 debacle at the Democratic convention and Nixon’s narrow victory over Hubert Humphrey in the presidential election later that year.
Daley was the classic Democratic Big City Boss in a one party city where, in some elections, the Democratic machine handpicked the Republican opponent. Yet there is also the machine where political careers and places on the party slate are won or lost because someone happens to go for a piss at the wrong time.
You also get to see the city leader who knows that he has to deliver to the little guy (As long as he’s the right colour and ethnic background, of course.) and has guys on the city payroll manning automatic elevators. Why? Because as Mayor Daley said, elevators don’t vote.
A slim volume and an absolute classic, and not just a history of a time but a lesson in how raw politics works.