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Fast,Entertaining Read About a Slimeball
on January 4, 2004
I had seen the movie before reading this book, so I knew the basic story. I was glad to see though,that Mr. Abagnale went right to the good stuff without trying to justify or explain himself. It was interesting that his first con was his father, charging thousands of dollars on a loaned gas card for phony repairs and pocketing the cash, and how seemingly quickly and easily his father forgave him.
His cons were amazing in their audacity and intelligence. Frank has a very sharp mind, but it soon became apparent that his greatest asset was his charisma. Everyone instantly liked this handsome and personable young man and just wanted to believe his claims. Had he been twice as smart, but half as charming, I doubt he could have pulled off everything he did.
It was easy to enjoy reading about his ripping off of large companies(Pan-Am particularly),hotels and banks, but it became less fun when he began stealing directly from everyday people. Once,lurking around a bank where he had just opened an account, he noticed people often did not put their account number on their deposit slips. Being the enterprising young man that he was, he swiped a few dozen slips and wrote HIS account number in. He then replaced the slips. When he checked his account later, he had over forty thousand dollars in his balance. He made a withdrawal and got out of Dodge.
Another such incident took place in Boston. Amazingly, on the same day he more or less conned his way out of jail, hours before the FBI arrived for him, he decided to rob a bank. Not with a gun, but with a sack and a uniform. He bought a authentic security guard uniform from the supplier, obtained a holster and (fake) gun, went to the bank, put a sign over the night deposit reading; Out of Order,Please Leave Deposit with Officer, and stood in front of it with a sack. He got over sixty thousand dollars deposited in his bag.
This is the one that really got me. He said this money was in small bills, so it's not rich businessmen he's stealing from, it's people who need the money, for rent,food,gas, and their children. And here he is smiling in their faces, patting himself on the back for being clever.
This did catch up to him,however. He eventually was caught in Montpellier,France. He had pulled numerous scams in France and the rest of Europe(all over Earth,actually) and thought to retire. I doubt his retirement would have lasted,but he is caught when one of the innumerable stewardesses he had dallied with recognized him and turned him in.
The penal system in France at that time seems to have been incomprehensibly barbaric. It was so unbelievable that I did some research on the subject to confirm it. I won't go into it here, but Frank spent a very unpleasant six months jailed in France. He was then transferred to the country club prisons of Sweden. The contrast was mind-numbing as to how two countries had such a radically different approach to incarceration. Anyway, this consideration was wasted on Frank. After his term in Sweden he was due to go to Italy, where the prisons were just as bad as in France,if not worse. The Swedish officials asked the American Embassy to revoke his passport,so he could be deported to the US instead.
This led to perhaps his most daring escape. When the plane hit the runway, Frank was in the restroom, pulling out the toilet and shimmying out the bottom of the plane. He ran off the tarmac unnoticed and used the twenty American dollars a kind female Swedish officer had given him for snacks to take a cab out of there.
Once caught in France though, Frank's luck had seemingly run out. He was recaptured,but escaped again. Very cleverly, but he just couldn't evade the authorities forever.
This is where the book ends,rather abruptly. A epilogue where it tells how he was eventually caught for good, served five years in an American penitentiary, and was let out with the understanding that he would henceforth use his powers for good would have been appreciated.
In closing, this book was highly entertaining and you can probably finish it in one day. Don't believe everything you read though. Because I wouldn't doubt that Frank is still pulling a scam of some sort. I hope he didn't make any money off the movie or new editions of this book, but he probably did. Crime can still pay for Frank Abagnale.