Catch Me If You Can
By Frank W. Abagnale, with Stan Redding
Frank Abagnale was a teenage fraud artist who used his wits to pass millions of dollars in bad cheques, and impersonate pilots, doctors, prosecutors, and professors. Eventually he got caught and did his time, and then started up a successful fraud prevention company. He was a frequent guest on Carson, and I remember him telling some of the anecdotes in this book.
I liked the book, but was never wowed by it. By necessity, it was a lot ‘this happened, then this happened, then this happened.’ There were a few times when the chronicling of events slowed down enough to take you into the story--his time as a ‘doctor,’ the events after his capture--but much of the book was taken up with the minutiae of defrauding Pan Am. Events in the story took place during a five year period, from 1964-1969, so I doubt much of the info he is giving out is going to be of any use today. Written more than a decade after events, and by the reformed Frank, it is clear that he had a very good time. The glee he felt in working a con is right there on the page. Still, I was glad he included the story of his confession to Rosalie, otherwise he might of come off as something of a sociopath.
This book was originally published in 1980, but was given a second lease on life when it was turned into a movie by Steven Spielberg. Agagnale is played by Leonardo Decaprio. I have never seen the movie, though the book has made me want to. Abagnale was able to pass himself off as much older. While I like DiCaprio and think he’s a talented actor, I have to admit I have some trouble believing he can do the same. No matter that he’s in his 30s, he’ll always have the look of a twelve year old delinquent about him.
The edition I have is from 2003 and includes an interview with Abagnale. He’s older and has grown more conservative. At one point the says, “Maybe the French have the best system.” I am sure that would have shocked the young Frank who actually did time there. I am also sure that if he’d been caught today, he would have done a lot more time than the less than five years, of a twelve year sentence, that he did in the 70s.