The ""City of the Big Shoulders"" gets a kick in the rear and a pat on the back in this spirited history of municipal chicanery from novelist (The November Man, Schism) and Chicago Tribune columnist Granger, and Loft Granger, his collaborator on a previous Chicago saga, Fighting Jane. ""Chicago makes no pretense: politics is about money,"" state the authors in this barbed paen; it is this fusion of the buck and the vote that they focus on here. The Grangers begin by identifying two Chicagos--one ""a glittering thing"" that ""ambles gracefully,"" mostly to the north and west; the other a poorer one of neighborhoods whose inhabitants ""jostle each other for a few rooms to live in, a job, room to breathe."" This second Chicago is the authors' stalking ground, hatchery of the city's canny, greedy, and brutal (Democratic Party) political machine and its master magicians. With eyebrows arched, the Grangers trace the rise and fall of that machine and its astonishing wheels within wheels for patronage, graft, corruption, and racial oppression. And within this amazing history they weave stories of the crafty politicos who, like barnacles on the ship of state, have attached themselves to the machine, banking their fortunes on alliance (and sometimes opposition) to it. Biographed here with a pointed pen are a rogue's gallery of Second City mayors, from Big Bill Thompson, who got elected by ""tailoring each lie to suit the prejudices of his audience,"" to Robert J. Daley, who ruled the city with an iron fist and heart for 22 years, to recent mayor Harold Washington, who in 1972 served 40 days in jail for four years' worth of income-tax evasion. And along the way here, Chicago itself takes on vivid shape, a blustering, fascinating, juggernaut of a town. Despite its parochial subject, this acidic yet entertaining history sparkles with enough color and wit to please readers nationwide.