How’s this for vindication? There were skeptics when “I Heard You Paint Houses” (Steerforth Press), Charles Brandt’s book about mob hit man Frank “The Irish” Sheeran, came out in 2004 with Sheeran’s claim he pulled the trigger on teamster boss Jimmy Hoffa. Two years later, when mafia honcho Billy D’Elia turned state’s evidence, the FBI asked him what happened to Hoffa. He told them to read Brandt’s book.
But wait, there’s more. Brandt held back information from that first edition because he feared for his life. He says, “I purposely left out people’s names—I didn’t even mention their names in passing—because they were difficult. When you’re dealing with people where murder is part of their arsenal, you don’t mess with them.”
Now that those folks are no longer alive (or in the case of D’Elia, no longer a threat), Brandt included more information in an updated version of “I Heard You Paint Houses” published last June in anticipation of the movie, shooting this summer, based on the book. The film, directed by Martin Scorsese and written by Academy Award–winning screenplay writer Steve Zaillian, will feature Robert De Niro as Sheeran and Al Pacino as Hoffa. Details about the meeting Brandt had with De Niro, Scorsese, and Zaillian are also included, as well as the corroboration of crimes Sheeran claimed he committed, including the hit on Joey Gallo; Sheeran’s confession to Brandt is captured in a photograph of the two men at a mob hangout in 2000. How did Brandt, a former homicide prosecutor and chief deputy attorney general of Delaware, get Sheeran to confess to not only the Hoffa murder but others as well? The FBI had put Sheeran in prison for labor law violations. Brandt explains, “They gave him 32 years of jail sentences. I got this call from the Philly mob. Frank was about 70. He had health issues and was in a wheelchair in jail. Would I get him out on an early medical release? It was pretty easy. I took him before the parole board and pleaded his case with his medical records and got him out.”
After the celebratory luncheon, Sheeran pulled him aside and told him he’d read Brandt’s first book, a novel based on his cases, The Right to Remain Silent. “He told me he liked it,” says Brandt, “and that he was tired of being written about in all the books on Hoffa’s disappearance. This was 1992; Hoffa disappeared in 1975, so there’d been about half a dozen books about it and many articles as well. [Sheeran] was mentioned in everything as having a role, but no one knew what role. He wanted to tell his side of it, and he wanted me to tell it for him.”
Chip Fleischer, Steerforth publisher, took a risk when he bought Brandt’s manuscript 14 years ago: “He was putting himself out there with claims and conclusions that ran contrary to some well-regarded books published by responsible writers, but Charlie was drawing different conclusions and other publishers were afraid to take the plunge.”
Another shocking revelation included in the updated 57-page conclusion is about the mob’s connection to JFK’s assassination. That will be the subject of Brandt’s next book. Let’s see what the skeptics say then.
Today, 2–4 p.m. Charles Brandt will sell discounted copies of his new book and Steerforth will give away T-shirts at its booth (1708).