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  • NYS Writers Institute

A Q&A with author Charles Brandt and a Q for you

We've been in touch with Charles Brandt, author of the book that provides the basis for Martin Scorcese's recent film, "The Irishman," starring Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci.

His 2004 true crime book, I Heard You Paint Houses: Frank "The Irishman" Sheeran and Closing the Case on Jimmy Hoffa, tells the story of Sheeran, an alleged mafia hitman who confessed to killing his friend and mentor Jimmy Hoffa.

A homicide investigator and lawyer, Brandt befriended Sheeran after he was hired to secure the contract killer’s early release from jail on medical grounds. During five years of interviews with Brandt, Sheeran confessed to more than 25 murders. Hoffa’s body has never been found.

Charlie had been scheduled to be a featured guest at the NYS Writer's Institute's first Albany Film Festival at UAlbany on March 28 -- now postponed to Spring of 2021. He's looking forward to visiting us for the festival next year.

Q: Any words of wisdom for us?

A: "Confession is a basic human need like food and shelter." [From his novel, The Right to Remain Silent]

Q: In these days of social isolation, what book do you most look forward to reading?

A: Giants in the Earth by Ole E. Rolvaag. I have returned to this novel of the Scandinavian immigrant settling of the American West many times since I first read it in Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan in the 1950s. It has a strong female character who reminds me of my Italian-American immigrant grandmother Rosa Di Marco.

Q: Is there an action that isn't obvious that you would encourage us all to take during these challenging


A: Reconnect to old friends by telephone. A childhood pal and I tried to find two other pals from our NYC youth only to discover they both recently had died.

Q: Is there any news you'd like to share?

A: My publisher Steerforth Press has just reissued my 1988 detective novel, The Right to Remain Silent, with a new preface by me. While a busy medical malpractice trial lawyer, I had published this novel based on two homicides I had solved as a practitioner and teacher of the art of interrogation; and further based on the 50-plus homicide cases I had handled as the Chief Deputy Attorney General of Delaware, including having had four murderers on death row; together with my homicide defense work, which included defending the president of the Delaware PAGANS motorcycle gang on a charge of killing two witnesses.

Frank Sheeran was serving his 32-year sentence when he read that book, which is full of dramatized interrogation techniques. When I got Frank out of jail prematurely on medical grounds in 1991 he sought me out to interrogate him.

Full of remorse and during a five year period on tape, Frank confessed to killing 25 to 30 men including Jimmy Hoffa, and Crazy Joey Gallo and to playing an unwitting errand boy role in the assassination of JFK. His confessions have been corroborated by over 23 independent instances, far more corroboration than I ever had in my murder prosecutions.

Thanks, Charlie. See you in 2021.

Here's some nice praise for his books:

“I commend your novel... for your forthright stand on improving protection of law-abiding citizens.” -- then-President Ronald Reagan in an unsolicited fan letter, and “A humdinger of a cops-and-robbers novel...a fascinating look at how real cops and real prosecutors have to work these days.” -- Philadelphia Inquirer

On a related note, our Classic Film Series screening of "The Irishman" scheduled for Friday, March 13, at UAlbany's Page Hall was our first cancellation due to the coronavirus. File that away for a future NYS Writers Institute Trivia Night. For your enjoyment, here's the movie trailer. At two minutes and 34 seconds, it's about 206 minutes shorter than the film. :-)

And here's a question for you:

Filmmakers have been adapting novels to the screen for more than 100 years. What's your favorite film adaptation of a novel?

Add your comment below. Thanks for reading!


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