Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran, the notorious hit man and labor union leader, was behind bars for racke- teering in 1991 when former homicide investigator and prosecutor Charles Brandt was asked to meet with him. Ultimately, Brandt would spend five years with Sheeran, learning where the bodies were buried—literally. During their con- versations, Sheeran admitted to many murders, including that of legendary union boss Jimmy Hoffa.
I Heard You Paint Houses, published by Steerforth Press in 2004, is the book that resulted from those conversations. The mafia history is the basis for a much-anticipated film adaptation directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Robert De Niro that will be released in theaters and on Netflix this fall.
Brandt contributed to the film’s development, sharing his input with the iconic actor and director. “Scorsese and De Niro were the dream when the first word hit the first page,” Brandt says. “I still pinch myself. In our first meeting after they bought the rights, we hit it off. Marty, Bob, and I had so much in common, growing up at the same time in New York City in Italian-immigrant families.”
When Brandt met with Sheeran, it wasn’t as a prosecutor but as a private practice lawyer specializing in medical cases. After reading Brandt’s novel The Right to Remain Silent, Sheeran reached out to the author and attorney to help him secure medical parole for severe spinal stenosis—and to tell his side of the Jimmy Hoffa story.
“Frank wanted me to write a book clearing him of involvement in the hit on Jimmy Hoffa,” says Brandt, whose training and instincts told him that Sheeran had a latent desire to confess. Eight years later, Sheeran reached out to Brandt again, this time prepared to tell the truth. In a series of interviews with Brandt, Sheeran con- fessed to the Hoffa hit and to killing Joseph “Crazy Joe” Gallo, as well as another 25 to 30 murders.
“In the first interview, Frank, raised a strict Catholic, was so remorseful that I was able to help him get a great deal off his chest,” Brandt says. “We spoke on tape nearly every day, by phone or face-to- face, for five years. When all was confessed, Frank met with a priest for absolution, and then the Irishman committed suicide by refusing food. ‘I’m checking out,’ Frank told his family.”
I was I Heard You Paint Houses was an immediate bestseller when it was published in 2004—earning praise from the New York Times, which said the book “gives new meaning to the term ‘guilty pleasure’ ”—and word of mouth during the last two decades has helped the title find new readers. “Even before there was any movie interest, Houses had taken on a life of its own,” says Chip Fleischer, cofounder of Steerforth Press. “Charlie Brandt is a born storyteller, in person and on the page, and his book makes an important contribution to our under- standing of certain aspects of American history, not just who killed Jimmy Hoffa.”
To capitalize on promotional efforts preceding this fall’s premiere of Netflix’s The Irishman, the title has been updated with a 57-page conclusion by Brandt that contains substantial independent corroboration of Sheeran’s confessions. Brandt also included incriminating details that couldn’t be revealed when the book was first published. The buzz surrounding the film and this new edition— with a Netflix sticker on its cover—is sure to be a boon for Steerforth Press, as well as for booksellers and librarians who stock the book in the run-up to the film’s release.