I Heard You Paint Houses is not a good book. It’s like reading a court transcript with historical footnoting, which made it a slog for me to read. Maybe Charles Brandt’s other books are better because he’s more interested in editorializing his subject’s reminiscence instead of just putting it out there with minimal context and background work.
However, the book did what it needed to do for me. I’m a big Martin Scorsese fan and this is the inspiration for his newest movie The Irishman. Instead of looking for quality, I simply wanted to know what kind of story I was getting with the movie. And to that end, it satisfied. I got a healthy understanding of Frank Sheeran, the kind of person he was and the things he claimed to have done or allegedly did. His account of the Hoffa hit seems as reasonable as one can expect. And his other underworld stories seem to have a degree of truth.
Like I said in the opening paragraph though: Brandt is not a good writer. He prints hearsay as Gospel, especially regarding the Kennedy assassination. Brandt genuinely believes the delusional rantings of an aged Carlos Marcello combined with something Sheeran thought he heard whispered in conversation once means that the Mafia was behind the Kennedy assassination. He’s a lawyer and he actually says the word “corroboration” when describing this. Wow.
So no, Brandt is not a gifted writer. I have no idea what’s accurate here and what’s not. Speculating would be pointless. But there is a good story here and I’m interested to see how Scorsese will bring it to screen.