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American Pharoah [Hardcover]

Elizabeth Taylor , Adam Cohen

RRP: £18.99
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Book Description

1 Mar 2001
For more than two decades, Mayor Richard J. Daley ruled Chicago with an iron fist. The last of the big city bosses, Daley ran an unbeatable political machine that controlled over one million votes. From 1955 until his death in 1976, every decision went through his office and he was a major player in national politics too: Kennedy and Johnson owed their presidencies to his control of the Illinois vote, and he made sure they never forgot it! In a city legendary for its corruption and backroom politics, Daley's power was unrivalled. He transformed Chicago, once a dying city, into a modern metropolis but he also made it America's most segregated city. A man of profound prejudices and a deep authoritarian streak, he constructed the nations largest and worst ghettos, sidestepped civil rights laws, and successfully thwarted Martin Luther King's campaign. A quarter-century after his death, journalists Cohen and Taylor present a biography of the man, drawn from newly uncovered material and interviews with his contemporaries. It is the story of his rise from the working-class Irish neighbourhood of his childhood to his role as one of the most important figures in modern American history.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 624 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown & Company; First Edition First Printing edition (1 Mar 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316834033
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316834032
  • Product Dimensions: 15.9 x 4.8 x 24.1 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,112,012 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Adam Cohan and Elizabeth Taylor are veteran journalists. They live in the USA.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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First Sentence
Richard Joseph Daley was a product of the bloody world of the Chicago slaughterhouses. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.8 out of 5 stars  52 reviews
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absorbing study of the last omnipotent urban Democratic boss 22 Aug 2000
By Richard E. Hegner - Published on
Cohen and Taylor have written both a masterful piece of investigative journalism and a captivating political biography. In many ways, this book should be required reading for anyone doing college or graduate level research in the fields of American urban or domestic political science or history. Almost like Finley Peter Dunne's MISTER DOOLEY--which it often quotes--this volume takes you inside the Chicago Democratic machine and shows just how omnipotent the organization was during Daley's tenure at the helm, not without an occasional touch of humor and irony. As its subtitle promises, the book also places Daley and his machine in the context of national (and Illionis) politics, over which they had such enormous influence, especially during the late 1950s and all through the 1960s.
The authors paint a portrait of Daley that shows his enormous personal complexity--a devout Catholic and loyal family man who did not hesitate to engage in the most bare-fisted power politics or work to capitalize on the basest human instincts. While I tend to agree with other reviewers that the book focusses a bit heavily on racial matters during the Daley mayoralty, they played a major role during this period and Daley's attempt to balance the competing interests of white ethnics and black citizens ultimately undermined the absolute authority of the Chicago Democratic machine. I disagree with reviewers who say that the authors were too anti-Daley; I feel they made an honest effort to credit him for the considerable accomplishments of his tenure--including the preservation of Downtown Chicago as a going concern when so many other rust belt cities in the Midwest and Great Lakes area were going under (e.g., Detroit, St. Louis, Cleveland, Buffalo, and Pittsburgh). They make clear, however, the enormous price that was paid for his accomplishments, including the subversion of democracy and the exacerbation of racial tensions in Chicago.
24 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Unanswered Questions 25 May 2000
By Robert Morris - Published on
Born and raised in Chicago, I have always been fascinated by the personal life and public career of Richard J. Daley, arguably the city's greatest mayor whose son Richard now serves in that office. Years ago, in his book about Daley, Mike Royko suggested at least some of the parameters within which Cohen and Taylor now analyze "The Boss." They provide a wealth of information. I would have rated this biography higher had the authors probed more deeply into much of that material inorder to answer so many questions I still have about Daley.
For example, what do Daley's successes and failures as a public servant reveal about the political and social worlds in which they occurred? During the years he served as mayor, could he have achieved these same successes without maintaining absolute control of the city's political system? What did Daley share in common with those in control of the Chicago syndicate? To what extent were there strategic alliances with them? Why? If Daley was as corrupt as so many have claimed, why has no incontrovertible evidence of that corruption been presented?
The authors have much to say about Daley's relationship with Chicago's black community. This was an uneasy, at times hostile relationship. To what extent was Daley's leadership as mayor a reflection of the community (Bridgeport) in which he was born and raised? Did he hate blacks? Did he fear them? Or is there another explanation of his attitude toward them? Ancient pharaohs were on occasion benevolent to those whom they viewed as inferior as were, more recently, plantation owners in the Deep South. Perhaps Cohen and Taylor had this in mind when they selected their title.
As I recall Daley, he was a master of negotiation when seeking to achieve his objectives but never hesitated to be ruthless whenever it served his purposes. As county chairman, he once summoned an immensely popular incumbent mayor to his office and then, after letting him cool his heals, informed him that he would not seek re-election. Daley was now ready to assume that office. I wish the authors had been more objective when analyzing what I would characterize as Daley's pragmatism.
These are some of the questions which American Pharaoh raises in my mind. Perhaps there will be other books (yet to be written) which attempt to answer them. Nonetheless, I am grateful to Cohen and Taylor for helping me to understand better than I did before one of the 20th century's most fascinating political leaders.
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars American Pharoah gets it right on public housing 26 Oct 2000
By D. Bradford Hunt - Published on
Speaking as a former department head of the Chicago Housing Authority for ten years from 1945 to 1955 and as a long time professor of urban studies and social welfare at Loyola University of Chicago, may I say that American Pharaoh is the best and most faithful book to have been published about Mayor Daley that I have yet seen.
Certainly from the point of view of those who believe that public housing was and can be a most worthwhile contribution to the US urban scene, this is an indispensable piece of history.
It tells what public housing was in the twenty years when Elizabeth Wood administered the program, how it served working poor families - most of whom were mom and pop families. It shows how congregate housing could provide good shelter for families both on a separate and an integrated basis. Likewise it describes the machinations which relieved her of her job. But most important it tells of the twenty years of the Daley administration which because of its hostility to public housing put in charge of the Chicago Housing Authority a series of mediocre, incompetent, and most of all uninterested executive directors who allowed and virtually guided public housing to its present straits, where it is today the housing of last resort.
Finally it does what is equally rare. It shows how the 1969 Gautreaux case, the US Supreme Court decision that was calculated to help public housing and racial integration, has actually had minimal results. Moreover, the case has resulted in a situation where virtually no more public housing has been built since 1969.
Jim Fuerst, Chicago, IL
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A truly great book, worth reading 5 July 2000
By A Customer - Published on
I picked up this book after reading the very positive review in the Sunday New York Times. I knew little about Daley beyond the 1968 Convention. The authors succeed at telling the story not only of this one very intriguing man but also of how the modern city of Chicago emerged during his two decades in office. I would highly recommend the book to anyone interested in biography or modern American history, or of course, Chicago. The book is heavily sourced, both to local news accounts -- something which has been inexplicably criticized by other reviewers in this column -- as well as over a hundred interviews conducted by the authors (e.g., William Daley, Daniel Rostenkowski). This is a praiseworthy and fascinating effort by the writers to tell the story as it happened, not as various political or religious viewpoints would like it to be told.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Maybe it helps if your a Irish/catholic/democrat 20 Aug 2000
By Bill Higgins - Published on
It was an easy read, although I frequently looked ahead to see when it
was over! It was a book that was detailed in some areas and very
shallow in others [I knew a lot about housing but less about the man,
only what he did]. More interviews with people that worked with
Daley, both good and bad relationships, would have helped to develop
his character. Sometime when people that were close to him and are
quoted it was only in snipets. I would have liked to more
conversations with Leon Depres, Ed Hanarahan, David Stahl, J.Johnson
[publications], Judge Morovitz, Sen. Paul Simon, Jesse Jackson, etc.
Those interviews would have added more to explaining Daley as a man
rather than his role as King. [maybe a another book]. I grew up in
his era and continue to live here. My father and mother were
patronage workers and one of Daley's many wakes was my father's in
'72. I go to the same church as his son, the present mayor, and one of
my grade school mates was the present mayor's chief of staff. All that
doesn't qualify me to be a critic but adds to my insight and
reflections of how I saw life under Richard J. and how the book
portrays events. I never thought he was anything but THE MAN because
he had the POWER but this book shows what his POWER did and didn't do.
It was too much control and too much about ego. He was there to win
and winning was based upon his goals only. It was only in extreme
defeat that he would choose how to show himself as the winner! The
Irish/catholic/democrat mantra is not as strong as it once was in
Chicago and it has changed from democrat to republican, where
convenient. The generations of Irish look back on when Daley had the
power as the good times and how he tried to keep the blacks in their
place. To many he was the hero and to those that are honest about it,
he was narrow minded, narcissistic and a American dictator. The book
does a nice job of reporting the times and if the reader has any bias
they can easily disagree with the portrayal but overall I'm glad I
spent the time to read all 600+ pages.
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