Books on Bosses?
September 16, 2010 5:38 PM   Subscribe

In preparation for Boardwalk Empire, what are the best books out there on political bosses, political machines, and their heyday on the American scene?
posted by LeonBernstein to Law & Government (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Most obvious: Boss, by Mike Royko, about the original Mayor Daley of Chicago.
posted by xil at 5:46 PM on September 16, 2010

anything on Huey Long

or boss tweed
posted by clavdivs at 6:36 PM on September 16, 2010

Plunkett of Tammany Hall are first person essays by George Washington Plunkett...a charmingly corrupt politician. In it you will learn the problem with reformers, the differences between honest and dishonest graft, and how to get ahead in the Machine...among other things!
posted by Wink Ricketts at 6:43 PM on September 16, 2010

Are you asking for books that describe Atlantic city at the time (where the series takes place) or any book that describes the prohibition era?
posted by dfriedman at 8:04 PM on September 16, 2010

If you have the patience for it, Gotham is an absolutely extraordinary history of New York City, which happens to cover in passing a massive amount of information about the rise of bosses in the whole area. One of my favorite evenings in 2004 was spent with Gotham open alongside the (also great) Encyclopedia of New York and "Gangs of New York" on TV. But you can settle for merely reading the book. :)
posted by anildash at 9:28 PM on September 16, 2010

I came in here to recommend Gotham as well, but I see Anil is on it. But then I saw someone said Plunkett of Tammany Hall and yeah, that's great. Gotham is one of my favorite books of all time in any category. Its incredible. I can't wait till Part II comes out.

In an effort to make this more than merely a "what they said" comment (though I no way wish to waive my "what they said" rights, I will point out that David McCullough's excellent The Great Bridge (about the building of the Brooklyn Bridge) has some excellent Boss Tweed material, because you can't do a proper BB history without touching on Tammany and Boss McLaughlin's Brooklyn ring, but its not primarily about machine politics either.

I once read a history of Asbury Park that was a lot about machine politics in Asbury, but I can't remember which one it was. Maybe 4th of July, Asbury Park.
posted by jeb at 9:48 PM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

Not quite the same thing, but Robert Caro's The Power Broker is a masterful account of how Robert Moses amassed and exercised incredible political power in New York without ever holding office.
posted by alexfw at 8:24 AM on September 17, 2010

I actually almost suggested The Power Broker too, but I felt like I had already gave too many "not quite" suggestions. I agree with Alexfw, though: The Power Broker is masterful.
posted by jeb at 6:56 PM on September 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

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