on March 9, 2003
I've seen the movie and read the book and I enjoyed both. The movie stars Leonardo DiCaprio as the con man of the title being pursued by Tom Hanks as the FBI agent. The book is a true story about a 16 year old New York runaway who leads the FBI and other law enforcement on a 5 year globe trotting escapade of bouncing check, forged payroll checks and life in the fast lane. The author impersonated a Pan American pilot, a pediatric doctor, and an attorney among others. He did this mostly as a teenager who dropped out of high school. Obviously he is not your average drop out, but an intelligent and scheming confidence man. He was more that just a two-bit paper hanger, as he developed techniques using the Federal Routing identification number that had not been used before. After being caught and imprisoned in France, Sweden and United States, Frank Abagnale used his expertise and talents to improve the check banking system, help catch other criminals, work with the FBI, and start his own secure documents corporation. In the back of the book is a question and answer section with the author where he reveals that the movie is 80% accurate. Obvious you can not put a book covering 5 years into a 2+hour movie so some events were altered, and of course some events in the book were omitted from the movie. I give this book my highest recommendation as a fun and enjoyable read. I myself enjoyed all that much more knowing that this is a true story, written by the actual perpetrator, of his exploits as mostly a teenager. Adults as well as teenagers will like this book. This is a an easy read and a fun book to read, I hope you enjoy it as much as me. I'm also planning to read the author's other book, "The Art of the Steal".
Older reades will see some similarities in the true book/movie, "The Great Imposter" which starred Tony Curtis.
on December 11, 2002
CATCH ME IF YOU CAN is the autobiography of master con man, Frank Abagnale. By the time he was 20, he had traveled all over the world; stolen millions of dollars; passed himself off as a Pan Am pilot, a pediatrician, a lawyer, and a sociology professor. Abagnale invented modern fraud and now he works at defunking it.
This book was an excellent read. It was quick, entertaining, informative, and slightly fascinating. The author does seem like a chauvinistic pig at the beginning of the book, but keep in mind he was describing himself as he was: a sixteen year old boy who had no ethic and moral system to adhere.
I thoroughly enjoyed the book and have been recommending it to many of my friends. It's one of the most intriguing autobiographies I've read in years.
on November 26, 2003
When you start reading Frank W. Abagnale's thrilling autobiography, it is hard to believe the events actually happened. But indeed they did. Typically, an autobiography will contain many slow narratives that are rather dull.
Abagnale is anything but dull. Born with an IQ clearly higher than the average man, he always was focused on getting around the rules--first, with his dad's credit card. It is clear that the beginning stages of his life of crime started when he was able to successfully get away with small infractions such as these. Later, Abagnale would resort to check fraud, and due to the lax restrictions on checks, get away with it. An ample lesson to banks and security experts: always try to think of every possible scenario because someone will exploit the situation.
The fact that he was able to get onto airlines, without paying, and sit in the cockpit is a sign that there have been many loopholes in our national airline security for quite some time. Now, Abagnale is no terrorist, but as the book explains, this still does not excuse the airlines for allowing mistakes of this sort to go through. It shows the incompetence of our bureacracies and that little has been done since this book has come off the press.
Even more ironic, and perhaps most damning to professors in our "higher learning" institutions, is that he was able to be a professor and gain wide recognition from the students. This is an indication that our professors really don't have any special expertise and merely read and paraprase what they are told. This is a damaging book to all those in authority--it a sign that one single individual, with a mission, is able to exploit the weakneseses out of our collective incompetence and stupidity. Yet, of course there is a consequence for the individual who engangse in these acts.
The French apparently have lousy prison systems, a surprise considering their typical weak image. Perhaps that is just hypocritical of our "friends" the French. But, I knew that Sweden's prison system had to be pretty much like a hotel. Look at the country: considering that Sweden is one large welfare state, it made sense that it would extend to the prison suite, too.
There was a lot of thought placed into this book. When reading it, you can almost feel the FBI agents running to finally catch Abagnale. . . and when they do, it's quite ironic how they let him get away--yet again.
I am glad, however, that Abagnale is a productive member of our society and is providing security information to private companies and the federal government. It takes a person who had lived such a life to help us solve today's incredible crimes.
on October 11, 2003
By now everyone has at least seen the DreamWorks picture or heard of Frank Abagnale, the real fake, but a person would be really missing out if they stopped there. I had seen the movie a few months ago and although it was great (I'm a sucker for charming con men), the book blows it out of the water!
Catch Me if You Can is a captivating book. I honestly could not put it down and ended up losing sleep a few nights ago because I did not want to stop reading it! I know that most people preface their positive reviews of this book with anti-crime speeches, but to tell you the truth, this story made me secretly WANT to be a con artist! Frank Abagnale, Frank Williams (whoever he was that week) was so clever, calm & collected-how can you not want to emulate that persona!
I'm not saying that I'm going to ditch my current identity and live my life on the run, but I am saying that this book is so well written and the story is told so vividly, it was a pleasure to lose myself for a few hours while reading it. I recommend it to anyone who revels in reading about crafty and incredibly bright people.
on December 11, 2003
I love a good scam, ever since I saw The Sting when it first came out. So I can't believe it took me this long to get around to reading Catch Me If You Can. I saw the movie first, and it was great. But the book is better.
Abagnale goes into great detail about how he pulled off his frauds and this really made it click for me. In spite of all the intracacies of bank ins-and-outs, for instance, the story moves fast. You just can't wait to find out how Abagnale will get away with his current scam or if he will finally get caught. He actually does spend some time in prison and even that is fascinating, if a more than a little gritty.
Even if you've seen the movie, you will want to read this book, because the stories Abagnale tells are a notch better than the ones in the film, if only because things get condensed in a movie. The story of how he recruited a phony batch of stewardesses for a European tour, which was a good scene in the movie, was much better in the book
on July 18, 2004
One of the most intriguing moments of this autobiography comes in the first few pages of the book. When asked why he used his dad's Mobil card in order to steal money, he responds, "It's the girls, dad. They do funny things to me. I can't explain it." The first chapter prepares the reader for the rest of the book by giving the implication that Abagnale's crimes were committed because of his out-of-control obsession with women. And not only that, but he committed crimes only because he wanted to see how much he could get away with.
This is a tale of America's "youngest and most daring con man in the history of fun and profit," a man who got away with absolutely everything before he was finally caught. The reader is brought into Abagnale's childhood and how he grew up, and follows his life in the years after he ran away from home and began his life as a criminal. The way Abagnale wrote the events as they happened is witty, charming, and has you rooting for the bad guy! The 293 pages go quick as you jump from airplane cockpits, to classrooms, to courtrooms, to hospitals, and back to the beginning again. Your head spins as you read on and find out just what he gets away with, right until the very last page.
on July 13, 2004
This book relates the exploits of the young Frank Abagnale, Jr., master con-artist. When Abagnale's parents split up in the early 1960s, Frank went to live with his father. He was a teenager who was addicted to girls, and found that he needed greater and greater sums to gain their company. To get a little extra money, he hatched his first scheme to score a little extra cash with his father's credit card. This started him down the slippery slope, and before long, he moved on to passing bad checks, creating counterfeit checks, soon adopting entirely new identities and personae to assist in his paper-passing schemes. The list of aliases and assumed positions is mind-boggling, ranging from pilot to pediatrician to professor. What makes his story even more remarkable is that he was able to pass off each of these assumed identities successfully, even though he was in reality still a teenager. This book details how he was able to do so, from interviewing real pilots, to learning the lingo of the trade, forging transcripts, studying technical dictionaries in broom closets when confronted on the job with terms he did not know, to cramming for and eventually passing the Bar in Georgia (at the age of 19, as a highschool dropout!). Abagnale was certainly no slouch, and could have gone far in any field he chose to apply himself to.
Abagnale's capers become bolder and more unbelievable with every page, giving the story both suspense and comic relief at times. The book doesn't leave readers with the message that crime pays, however. Abagnale describes his foreign prison experiences in great and gruesome detail. He also relates how he eventually ended up working for the FBI, having been fired from job after job in the civilian sector after employers found out he was an ex-convict. Thanks to the efforts of the reformed Abagnale at educating bankers and clerks, kids today would have a far more difficult time pulling off the capers that he did. But now, we have the Internet. . .
on June 28, 2004
I picked this book up at a NAVY Exchange in the UK. As always they had a limited supply of products, usually shipped over from stores such as Wal-Mart with surplus inventories, etc. Not quite sure. Anyway, needless to say the film was coming out in a few weeks over in the US, and a few months in the UK, so I thought it'd be fun to read the book and see how it fared.
It's not the most well-written book in the world. Chances are Stan Redding, who co-wrote the novel with Frank Abagnale, Jr., did most of the typing, and Mr. Abagnale most of the story telling itself. No matter, this is a rather fascinating true tale - something you have to read to believe.
Thought the (very good and faithful) movie was a stretch? Check out the book. You'll never believe some of the stuff this kid got away with. I started wondering how much Abagnale actually made up! I suppose none, although he did admit he sometimes stretches the truth of his tales a bit for dramatic effect.
Overall, a very interesting memoir of a very interesting man who now lives a very normal life!
on July 14, 2003
I saw the movie first, and was interested in reading the novel thereafter. It was as good as, or better than, the movie.
First of all, everything from the movie is here, but explained with greater accuracy and details: Frank's family, his first con, why he ran away, how he became a co-pilot, and his crazy affairs with airline stewardesses.
Although he starts and ends the novel with an air of boastful pride, it's hard for readers to hate him. In fact, it's so much easier to be amazed at his confidence, his suave nature with women, and the precarious situations he gets into. Instead of seeing Frank as the egotistical boy with uncontrollable urges, readers are able to identify with Frank, as he also reveals his fears and feelings of loneliness that accompanied him as a wanted felon.
So many things were left out of the movie that the book details fabulously. We learn about his days as a sociology teacher, his nights as a doctor, and how he really passed the bar. Along the way, readers follow Frank's clever train-of-thought, learning a few things about check fraud along the way (which are discussed in just the right amount so that it isn't boring but interesting).
His intimate moments were also exciting to read, as he recanted how his persuasion and confidence helped him fulfill his libidinous desires. What I also personally liked was that all of Frank's intimate details were described in such a sexy and non-gratuitous nature, leaving the dirty stuff to the imagination.
Finally, the book ends with a lasting impression of Frank's months in the French prison. Here, the glorified image of the con man is put into a greater and more realistic perspective, symbolic of how Frank grew up to see his consequences, and how he began thinking about some of the individuals he hurt. It also puts a moral imprint on the book, suggesting that there are repercussions to a selfishly hedonistic lifestyle.
In all, an extremely entertaining novel that was hard to put down. This is definitely a great summer read, and a good recommendation to those who dislike reading -- they'll be hooked on this one till the very end!
on July 8, 2003
Frank W. Abagnale was an audacious New York teenager, who netted several million dollars and prison terms in several countries, from his unbelievable fraudulent lifestyle in the 1960's. Abagnale impersonated a lawyer, doctor, pilot, and a college professor, while traveling the world writing bad checks. This book was first published in the 1980's after Johnny Carson told Frank that he should write a book. The story became a movie last year and the book has been re-released.
I recommend this book highly. True it is a bit dated and not particularly well written, but the stories will mesmerize you. I read it almost without stopping. There is a lot more and less to this story than the movie shows. The time in the French prison under inhumane conditions is a riveting read which never made it to the movie. After being captured in France, Abagnale was imprisoned in Perpignan for six months, without the benefit of a bed, clothing, or a toilet. Upon his release, he was extradited to Sweden, found guilty there and spent another six months in prison, albeit more like a country club. Then a Swedish judge finds a loophole in the law to allow Abagnale to return to face charges in the US, rather than spending the next 20 years in a succession of European courts and prisons. Criminals should learn to hideout in countries where they have committed no crimes, especially ones without extradition treaties with the US.
The movie also took a lot of liberty with other events, mostly to build up the Tom Hanks character, but none of that really mattered. The real issue with the movie (and to a lesser extent, the book) was that it does not bring out Abagnale's motivation. Abagnale claims that he was suffering from raging hormones and pursued his travels and theft to meet exotic women. This is clearly one reason, but it is also clear that he enjoys the risk and the danger. At times, some of the risk-taking seems crazy, like attending a party in the same neighborhood of a previous victime and impersonating an FBI agent to take possession of a bad check. One almost thinks he wanted to get caught.
Abagnale spends just the right amount of ink on his exploits. One doesnot need to know every nuance of banking in the 1960's, but the explanation of the unique "routing number" scam he developed is interesting.