Years ago my dad told me I needed to read “I Heard You Paint Houses”: Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran and the Inside Story of the Mafia, the Teamsters, and the Last Ride of Jimmy Hoffa. “It’s a book about the mafia and Jimmy Hoffa,” he said. I normally listen to the fatherly advice my dad gives me, but I tucked this little bit of information away and didn’t pick the book up until last week.
Like usual, my dad was right. Author and former prosecutor Charles Brandt digs deep into the Hoffa mystery and compiles a great story based on years of research and interviews with Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran who confesses to killing Hoffa.
To paint a house is to kill a man—the paint is the blood that splatters the walls and the floors, according to the book. Sheeran painted houses for Hoffa and the mafia. He was also a WWII veteran, a Teamsters official and a ballroom dance instructor. Brandt does a great job of explaining what made Sheeran the person he eventually becomes. After learning more about him, Sheeran actually comes off as likable.
Sheeran unknowingly begins associating with mafia boss Russell Bufalino who helps Sheeran one day when his truck is broken down. The relationship continues to grow until Sheeran is eventually doing “favors” for the mafia. Sheeran eventually gets a job with the Teamsters.
Brandt explains who the major players in the mafia were and how they all interacted with Hoffa. I’ve never known much about the Hoffa disappearance, but the roles everyone played were clear. I learned a lot about the Kennedy’s and their interaction with the mafia, too.
The book, which was published in 2004, is currently being turned into a movie that will star Robert DeNiro as Sheeran. Martin Scorsese will direct the film and Oscar winner Steve Zaillian is writing the screenplay. It should be out sometime in 2011. I definitely recommend the book, but let me warn you, you might find yourself repeating some mafia sayings for a day or two.
You can read a 2004 New York Times review of the book here: http://www.nytimes.com/2004/06/20/books/killing-him-softly.html.
I was able to speak with Brandt about the researching and writing of the book. Tune in tomorrow for a Q&A with the best-selling author.