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Praise for Wised Up from three prominent crime writers:

  “Wised Up offers a fascinating, unadorned account of redemption from Baltimore's underworld.  Charlie Wilhelm's tale is all the more compelling for a voice that rings utterly true -- and Joan Jacobson has captured that voice wonderfully." 

--David Simon author of Homicide and The Corner, Executive producer, The Wire 


"Wised Up is a page turner, a vivid and fascinating look at  organized crime in Baltimore and Charlie Wilhelm's life as a wiseguy." 

--Jerry Capeci, author of Murder Machine, The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Mafia, and Jerry Capeci's Gang Land: Fifteen Years of Covering the Mafia.


“If you have ever wondered whether a lifelong bad guy can change, Wised Up, the story of lifelong criminal Charlie Wilhelm, provides the answer. Incredibly, Wilhem, ratted out 20 of his fellow career drug dealers and murderers, while refusing to go into the Witness Protection Program. Wilhelm’s first person narrative, combined with Joan Jacobson’s deft untangling of the behind-the-scenes legal maneuvers, makes for a read that is at times terrifying, and at times uplifting.


“ Their brilliant book will put you inside the head of a man who chose to redeem his conscience at the cost of spending the rest of his life looking over his shoulder. A must read for the general public, as well as anyone deluded into considering a life of crime. 

--Gus Russo, author of The Outfit: The Role of Chicago’s Underworld in the Shaping of Modern America (Bloomsbury 2002) and co-author (with Henry Hill) Gangsters and Goodfellas: Wiseguys, Witness Protection, and Life on the Run  (M. Evans 2004)


Mob informant hid in Decatur
Book outlines life of crime, turnaround

By Abby Foster
DAILY Staff Writer

No one except John Funari knew Charlie Williams was a criminal until two weeks before he skipped town in 1998.

His name is really Charlie Wilhelm, and he was a major player in Baltimore's organized crime world in the 1980s and '90s.

"It's the only thing I ever did right in my life," Wilhelm said of his choice to turn his life around.

One-time wise guy is hoping crime memoirs will pay

Charlie Wilhelm seeks normal life, but contract's out
Saturday, March 12, 2005
Times Staff Writer,

DECATUR - Back when Charlie Wilhelm was in the mob, running the streets of Baltimore with "Mousy" and "Fat Ricky," shooting quarters and heaven knows whatever else until dawn, he and some of the other wise guys used to laugh at one of the signature lines from "The Godfather."

Keep your friends close but your enemies closer, Michael Corleone told Frankie Pentangeli in one of the more reflective moments from the all-time mob movie.

The wise guys in Wilhelm's gang knew better than to buy Michael's line. They were convinced only their friends were capable of hurting them, figuring their friends were the only ones who knew anything about them.


Baltimore wise guy switches sides...

By James H. Bready
Special to The Sun October 17, 2004

Wised Up: A Mobster's Gritty True Story of Murder and Revenge on the Mean Streets
by Charlie Wilhelm and Joan Jacobson.
Pinnacle Books. 352 pages. $6.50 paperback.

How large, in the life of Baltimore, is organized crime? No Mafia here, business and civic leaders comfortably agree; honest and hard-working, the agents of law enforcement. Those nightly deaths in TV newscasts? Just gunfights in the drug-accursed slums. Which is to say, heads in the sand.

Nine years ago, Charlie Wilhelm gave the FBI a names-and-dollars account of the life he had been leading, as a leader in a local crime syndicate; and three years have passed since articles about him by Joan Jacobson, then a Sun reporter, awoke the public to this network of corruption. Their account, expanded by Wilhelm and Jacobson into this book, shows just how hollow was the idea of Baltimore purity.

The spheres of Wilhelm's "wise guys" extended to the docks and warehouses, to the cinderblock taverns and the strip joints, to the police department and even to City Hall itself. Wilhelm grew up in Dundalk, the son of a one-time policeman and child-beater; grown, Wilhelm relocated to Hampden. He went to work for the local mob, which numbered about 200 men and boasted a hulking, all-muscle enforcer named Billy Isaacs. But in mid-life, Wilhelm, a shrewd and energetic man, traded in a life of extortion, grand theft, illegal numbers, drug-selling, and loan-sharking for one within the bounds of the law.

He secretly began cooperating with law enforcement against his own syndicate. The highlight was helping send to jail three of his fellow mob pals for a brutal 1978 murder. Jacobson, a keen-eyed observer, is particularly good at portraying Wilhelm's subsequent fears for his wife and children. They moved to Alabama, but homesickness brought them back. May they live in peace. Isaacs, for one, is due for release in 2011.

From CITY PAPER, 10/6/2004

Mob Rules

Ex-Gangster Charlie Wilhelm is Making a Different Kind of Book These Days, and it’s Opening Up a Lot of the City’s Secrets

By Van Smith

Despite Wised Up’s remarkable disclosures and descriptions of mob life in Baltimore, it remains at its core a story about a man who made a change. “I really wrote the book because I thought it was a great story about how [Wilhelm] changed his life,” Jacobson says. “And I understood that there needed to be chapters about loansharking and bookmaking, and it was fascinating, but I really see this as a book about a guy who really turned his life around. And that’s what I think is the most interesting part about this book. That’s what really kept moving me along. I’d never written a book before, and it’s a big, long process. And that’s what kept me going—it’s a great story. It’s a story of hope....”

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