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VINE VOICEon March 8, 2005
Charles Brandt has proved twice over the last twenty years that he is a pretty good author. This non-fiction work (the title refers to the code Mafiosi used to inquire whether someone did hits -- the blood spatter being the paint) detailing the life of Frank Sheeran and his buddy Jimmy Hoffa is first rate.

Brandt combines passages of Sheeran's own words with the author's background and fill-in's to tie together an impressive mob memoir. Frank Sheeran, besides hailing for a time from my own Wilmington, Delaware, was one vicious and disciplined mobster. This is his story. His hardscrabble life (his father would make him fight people in bars as a teen for beer -- the beer going to his father, not Frank) perhaps made a life a amorality unsurprising. What is amazing is that this recount by an old man facing death is not a repentance for a life lived horribly wrong, but a simple detailing of the events of that life. The banality of Sheeran describing his career -- hits, butchering, beatings told the way an accountant would detail audits or financial statement presentations -- is fascinating and speaks to a man wholly absorbed in doing his part for organized crime and the Teamsters.

Hoffa is presented as an interesting figure; one who starts using the mob for the benefit of "his" teamsters but makes the tragic mistake of believing he is too big to be bound by mob rules. His story and will to take over what was once the most powerful union in America is a remarkable tale in its own right and told interestingly in this book.

Sheeran idolizes Hoffa. Then he kills him (according to Sheeran). The punch of this book is a detailed and blow-by-blow telling of Hoffa's supposed meeting with his executioner (the mob supposedly sends someone you would never expect when it is decided you've pushed their patience too far) and the deed. Sheeran is detailed and convincing in his telling. Sheeran also hints that Hoffa and certain mob bosses were behind the JFK assassination as a payback for Bobby Kennedy's war against organized crime as a Senate attorney and later Attorney General. In fact, Sheeran thinks he may have delivered a package that was Lee Harvey Oswald's rifle to a contact in Baltimore days before the shooting of the president.

Whether or not this is the true story of what happened to Jimmy Hoffa (and whether or not he was involved in JFK's assassination) will have to be for each reader to judge. But the story is one heck of an interesting ride into the sordid doings of organized crime. Mr. Brandt, you should pick up the pen more frequently.
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on June 8, 2004
I must say, when I first heard that there was a new book out that supposedly had the inside info on what actually happened to Jimmy Hoffa, I was skeptical. After all... after years of myths and mysterious tales that included the Teamster boss' burial beneath the Giant Stadium End Zone, I figured this would be more of the same... speculative journalism. Was I wrong! This book has more than the ring of truth, it has the look, feel and smell of truth. Frank Sheeran's story, as reported and commented on by the author, is clearly authentic. The way the story unfolds -- as first person narration with commentary -- provides the reader with an in-depth journey through a life of crime, murder, mob relationships, and betrayal on a grand scale. It's not only solid history and a superb biography of a complex individual, it's one of the best non-fiction crime books I've ever read. And the big questions... who killed James R. Hoffa... why and how did it go down? I'm convinced they are answered. Case closed. And the insights the book gives us into a life in crime are fascinating. Go for it!
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on July 16, 2004
Enough law enforcement officials have given credit to the veracity of Sheeran's account and it certainly rang true to me as I read it. There are no particularly startling revelations here, at least as regards the Hoffa matter. Those who orchestrated the hit are the same people who were always suspect- Bufalino, Provenzano, etc. However, at the very least, we can now dispense with some of the more fanciful notions that have evolved over the years- Hoffa was buried in a NJ dump, Hoffa rests in the end zone of Giants stadium, etc. I was surprised to read about Sheeran's claiming credit for the Joe Gallo hit in NY in 1972. As a frequent patron of the old Umberto's restaurant on Mulberry Street where the colorful Gallo met his end (you could still see the bullet holes that dispatched Gallo for years afterward and the restaurant became something of a tourist attraction), I always credited the claim of Joseph Luparelli that 3 gunmen were involved in the hit. The only real problem I had with the book was that, despite all his forthcoming self-analysis and revelatory details, I ended the narrative with no real sense beyond the superficial of what made Sheeran tick. Impoverished background? The brutality of his combat experiences? How many people have gone through all that and more without becoming underworld killers? Perhaps it's inevitable that someone like Sheeran is destined to remain an enigma. Or perhaps the prosaic reality is that Frank Sheeran was an essentially shallow, empty man whose only true value in the world in which he moved was the brutality and violence of which he was so obviously capable of performing without much notice or preparation. It would have been interesting to hear from his alienated, embittered daughters to get a glimpse of the man's personality from another vantage point. I did find it interesting and somewhat ironic that Sheeran supposedly made his confessions so that he would be able to be buried in a Catholic cemetery. My father's family has a burial plot in a Catholic cemetery in NJ and not many yards away is the burial plot of Anthony "Tony Pro" Provenzano, a man who allegedly was intimately involved in the Hoffa assassination and yet a man who could claim burial in sanctified ground without having to go through the process of making public confession of his various crimes and sins.
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on July 3, 2004
When I read this book's review in the NY Times, I knew I had to read it, and I was not disappointed. No one should miss this absolutely compelling and fascinating insider's story of his life with the Mafia, Jimmy Hoffa and the Teamsters.
In addition to making some very astonishing revelations about Joe Kennedy, The Bay of Pigs and the assassination of John F. Kennedy, this book also reveals Frank Sheeran to be a rather likeable character. And that was a complete surprise to me. I anticipated a far more despicable personality.
Is it all true? I think it is. Read it and make your call.
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on April 9, 2007
The print in this book is large as advertised.This hard cover has a good,sturdy binding.

It's a smooth flowing read.Sheeran's words are in quotations while Brandt's words are in bold type.

The Prologue in this book lays the groundwork for how Frank Sheeran eventually came to confess his involvement in the Hoffa disappearance.

He explains why there would be no body to recover and how trusted people close to Jimmy Hoffa had to be involved.

The information in this book verifies information in other mafia related books that I have read.

Some examples:

Hoffa's claim to possess audio sex tapes involving Bobby Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe.

Joe Kennedy recruiting Sam Giancana to steal the 1960 Presidential election.

Multiple mafia figures and their involvment in the assassination of John F Kennedy.

A lot of the organised crime figures in this book are mentioned in most JFK assassination books.

It's interesting that Frank Sheeran claimed that he deilvered three rifles to David Ferrie in Baltimore shortly before the assassination.

Jimmy Hoffa strenuously opposed the mafia's aiding Kennedy in the election.He was right in the end.

The Nixon administration's corruption was detailed.

One of the bigger contributing factors in Jimmy Hoffa's murder was the access to Teamster funds.Hoffa apparently was not as lenient as Frank Fitzsimmons in collecting debts.

This book is believable to me.Each individual reader will have to assess for themselves whether this book is credible.

It's one of the best mafia related books that I have read so far.
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on June 29, 2004
Sheeran now has three purported deathbed confessions: 1. In this book he shot Hoffa twice in the back of the head as he tried to run from the mystery house. 2. In a Detroit Free Press article (3/13/04), he got to the house after the deed was done and took the body to Vitale's incinerator. 3. In a Philadelphia Daily News article (3/17/04) he claims to have shot Hoffa while they were in the car after leaving the Red Fox.
What surprises me is that no one has made an issue over his insinuation in the book that the mob assassinated JFK as a favor to Hoffa. He claims to have delivered the rifles to David Ferrie to take to Dallas. I have always believed it was the mob and Hoffa because of the pressure RFK put on them along with the double cross by Joe Kennedy to Sam Giancana.
I really looked forward to buying this book. It gives some fascinating insight about the infiltration of the mob into the teamster's. Hoffa has the classic little man's syndrome and he sold out his fellow teamster's so he could be a big man. In the end, that probably led to his sad ending.
Sheeran knows something.
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on June 2, 2004
Brandt--with his experience as a former prosecutor and Chief Deputy Attorney General of the State of Delaware and an expert on cross-examination--has provided more than enough evidence to, finally, solve one of the greatest mysteries of our time. His book is extremely well written, exciting to read, and very informative, as it dives into an amazing and fascinating life story of the real life Mafia hit man Frank Sheeran. This is better than any Soprano's episode ever written, and it is the "real deal." I couldn't put the book down! Know doubt, Brandt has reserved himself a place in literary history.
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on July 7, 2006
If you think your work is killing you, what would you think if killing was your work? Nothing, if you were Frank Sheeran and had sent 25 to 30 men "to Australia".

I Heard You Paint Houses is a taped narration by 83-year-old Frank Sheeran of his life as a hit man, thief, thug, bagman, and corrupt Teamster official, to all of which he had taken like a fish to water. Against daunting evidence of his having a conscience, he asks from his grave that we believe his narrative. Still, one warms to him, a 6 foot 4 good-looking "stand up" guy known as "The Irishman", who looks like a crooked, friendly cop on the take, likable for his rough candour, boozing, and ball room dancing, noted for his cold eyed stare above a half smile look, and his stammer under stress. Hearing him in one's mind is like listening to the voice heard in darkness by a priest in a confessional box, the face of the speaker unseen. The irony that Sheeran is speaking in an assisted living facility does not escape you. Sheeran, an aged, much-used assassin, optimistically speaks of a "shot" at heaven by confessing to a priest who will grant him absolution. If Sheeran can make it, the whole neighborhood can make it. Who can say that Sheeran the pentitent did not shake hands with Sheeran the predator who was waiting outside the confessional, sniffing the air for money for his estate? If Sheeran were the reader, would Sheeran believe someone with his history? Is Mayor Bloomberg 6 feet four?

The book is the work of Charles Brandt, former Chief Deputy Attorney General of Delaware, who oversaw the tapings after dogging Sheeran for several years to make them. The narrations are enhanced by Brandt's factual commentaries that provide useful contexts of time, people, and events. When shown the book, Sheeran, hunched over, appraised it. "The title sucks", he said. Indeed, the title does "suck", but don't let the title fool you. The book is an artful work crafted by Brandt so intensely that one is not surprised that Brandt as pall bearer carried Sheeran to the very lip of his grave, perhaps out of an impulse to learn at the last moment whether Sheeran had conned heaven out of God.

As one closes the book, one imagines its array of characters and events. Sheeran in front and center, and around him, the warriors Jimmy Hoffa and Robert Kennedy, Russell Bufalino, the most powerful godfather in the United States who had a hand in the Bay of Pigs tragedy ("These Kennedys could louse up a one-car funeral", said Sheeran.), Sam Giancana, who sent his mistress to a grateful President in Camelot, Crazy Joe Gallo, whacked by Sheeran in Umberto's Clam House, Frank Fitzsimmons, the Teamsters president annointed by the imprisoned Hoffa and corrupted by the mob, the liberation of Dachau by US soldiers, Sheeran among them, Sam Giancana's associate, Jack Ruby (remember him?), known socially to Hoffa and Sheeran, Joe Colombo whacked by a "cowboy" who was promptly shot, "Bugs" Briguglio, a hit man shot twice in the head by Sheeran while greeting him heartily, prison guards who for years watched Sheeran, more mean in prison than on the street, the men Sheeran had whacked all of whom presumably had a last roll call in Sheeran's confession, the Cosa Nostra commission of which Sheeran was one of the only two non-Italian members, Attorney General John Mitchell as bagman to whom Sheeran delivered large sums of green stamps, Nixon signing the commutation of Hoffa's sentence, the Teamster Pension Fund used by Hoffa and Cosa Nostra as a private bank, crooked Teamster officials, goons and hit men of competing unions, even E. Howard Hunt accepting a truckload of weapons from Sheeran in Florida. All these and many more from central casting loiter in your memory. No stumble bum hitman this Sheeran who speaks of the killing of President Kennedy to whom the mob gave Illinois as an electoral gift after a chat with Kennedy's former bootlegger father, a Sheeran who speaks with ease of the mob's attempt to poison Castro, the mob who with the warrior Hoffa hated Robert Kennedy for his drive against organized crime. What did Bufalino mean when, having trouble with a recalcitrant Hoffa, he said to Hoffa that Hoffa was not showing "appreciation for Dallas"?

Sheeran was born in 1920 in Philadelphia in a poor Irish-Catholic family that solved its rent problems by flights from one to another unsuspecting landlord. Grey was the color of his childhood, his father an unloving, feisty, common type, bitter in occasional jobs during the Depression. He took little Sheeran to farms where they would steal vegetables, flee steps ahead of gunshot pellets, and spread their takings on the table for the family's meal. His father, however, showed a spark of economic promise. He would enter bars and wage a quarter matching the 10 year old Sheeran against the 15 year old son of any customer. If Sheeran lost, his head would feel the cuff of his father's hand. In his first and last year at high school, an incautious principal unjustly cuffed Sheeran's 16 year old head and promptly received Sheeran's personal broken jaw award. Years of drifting in the bottomlands of Depression work followed: carnival work as a laborer, sex lessons from carnie dancers remembered by the aged but still grateful Sheeran as " Little Egypt" and "Neptune", work as a logger and talented dance instructor, winding it all up in August 1941 in his Army enlistment at 20.

World War II drew Sheeran into an horrific 411 days in unrelenting combat in which he learned to kill the enemy and especially the captured enemy. "The lieutenant gave me a lot of prisoners to handle and I did what I had to do". He killed them routinely, the way you and I comb our hair. He particpated in the massacre of more than 500 German army prisoners of war at Dachau after it had been liberated. "And no body batted an eye when it was done", he said. "Somewhere overseas", Sheeran said in an unusual reflective mood, " I had tightened up inside, and I never loosened up again. You get used to death. You get used to killing."

Discharged at 25, he did hard labor, was a bouncer, taught dancing, married, had children, worked and repeatedly stole from his employer, drove trucks, and then "at some point, I just joined that other culture" in which he met the godfather, Russell [Rosario] Bufalino, who "changed my life". He became Bufalino's driver. Sheeran loved, revered and respected Bufalino, a lowkeyed, quiet man. Even the reader develops a liking for Bufalino's equanimity. "Russell", said Sheeran, "treated me like a son." Sheeran handled "certain matters" for him. One day, Bufalino handed the phone to Sheeran. It was Hoffa. He said, "I heard you paint houses", an oblique reference to blood that strikes the wall or floor where someone has been shot. Sheeran answered, "I do carpentry work, too", meaning that he disposed of bodies as well. Hoffa thereupon employed Sheeran at the International Teamsters office where Sheeran handled "certain matters" for Hoffa the way "I did for [Bufalino]." Indeed, Sheeran performed well. For example, in a 24 hour period Sheeran at Hoffa's order flew to Puerto Rico, whacked two, emplaned for Chicago, whacked one, and then flew to San Francisco to report to Hoffa who complained that Sheeran was late.

Hoffa became the president of the Teamsters in 1957. By 1969 he had been sentenced to terms totalling 13 years. After the green stamps were delivered to Attorney General Mitchell, the terms were commuted in 1971 by a thoughtful "I am not a crook" President Nixon. Hoffa immediately went into high gear to regain the Teamster presidency. In 1974, Bufalino told Hoffa that the mob leaders were content with Fitzsimmons, Hoffa's successor. Fitzsimmons was weak and from him the mob leaders could obtain favorable loans from the Teamsters Pension Fund. Hoffa, however, refused to stop his campaign. Bufalino told Sheeran to tell Hoffa that if he did not stop, Hoffa would be killed. Hoffa said, "They wouldn't dare", a sign that Hoffa wasn't playing with a full deck. The mob would dare anything and he was only a 5 foot 5 tough talker who could be snuffed out like a cigarette.

On July 27, 1975, following Hoffa's public threats to drive the mob from the Teamsters, Sheeran told Hoffa that Bufalino was agreeable to a settlement meeting on July 30th. Like a starved lion, Hoffa went for the meat, so much so that he asked Sheeran to be his back up man at the meeting and to be sure to take his gun with him. In the afternoon of July 30th, Sheeran, Hoffa, and others, drove to a one-family ordinary home in Michigan. There were two "cleaners" hiding in the kitchen as Hoffa, with Sheeran behind him, walked into the hallway. Hoffa, seeing no one, panicked and went for the door knob. Sheeran immediately pointed his gun under Hoffa's right ear and blasted him twice. Sheeran, knowing that a hit man sometimes has his own house painted on the spot, dropped his gun, drove to a waiting private plane, and flew out of Michigan. "My friend didn't suffer", said

sentimental Sheeran into the recorder.

As for those vexed with the question of the location of Hoffa's body, Sheeran states that it was taken to a Detroit funeral parlor for cremation. "Anybody who says they know more than this - except for the cleaner who is still alive - is making a sick joke", said Sheeran. I like that, a touch of class at the end.
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on August 9, 2004
The book tells an amazing but very believeable account of the life of a man deep inside the organization.

This book answers a lot of questions about several key events of the last forty years from Hoffa's disappearance to the Kennedy assassination.
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on July 8, 2004
I have to agree with the person from Rolling Meadows. You have to question Sheeran's credibility. But that aside, it is a great book to read. It gives you insight into the mob infiltration of the teamsters and other unions. It also makes you realize that Sheeran most likely participated in some aspect of Hoffa's disappearance Whether he is the actual killer or just an accomplice, he definitely knew something.
This is a very enjoyable book if you have any interest at all in the mob, the teamster's or Hoffa.
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