“A man’s alter ego is nothing more than his favorite image of himself.” // Review of “Catch Me If You Can” by Frank Abagnale Jr with Stan Redding

Title: Catch Me If You Can
Author: Frank Abagnale Jr with Stan Redding
Genre: Memoir
Audio book narrator: Barrett Whitener
Date Read: 27/06/2016 – 02/07/2016
Rating: ★★★

Review:

I remember really enjoying the movie Catch Me If You Can when I first saw it a few years ago, and I enjoyed seeing the musical earlier this year even more. I only recently learned that both were based on Frank Abagnale’s memoir, so when I saw it available on Overdrive, I picked it up immediately. As I listened to the book, I became convinced that Frank has to be one of the luckiest men who ever lived.

In the early 1960s, Frank Abagnale ran away from home at the age of 16, and began forging cheques in order to sustain himself. Over the course of his five year career as a conman, he not only cashed over $2.5 million in bad cheques, but flew thousands of miles for free as a PanAm co-pilot, supervised interns in a hospital, taught a college sociology course, practiced law, all without a single qualification and all before the age of 21.

While the truth of some of the claims in this book have been called into question, there’s no doubt it’s a very entertaining read. I did have to keep reminding myself it was a memoir rather than a novel, as Frank’s luck just never seemed to run out. He always ran into the right person and no one ever seemed to ask questions. Even when he ended up in gaol overnight a couple of times, he managed to make it out before the FBI arrived. There is  song in the musical called “The Pinstripes Are All That They See”, a theme that is examined quite closely in the book. He points out on more than one occasion that people will see him in uniform and not question, and it actually made me think a lot about how much I take for granted regarding appearances.

My main qualm was that a lot of the storytelling focused on the women Frank casually dated, and often took advantage of. A lot of the language is quite leery and bordering on just plain gross. While this doesn’t surprise me, given that the book was written in the 1980s and discusses a male teenager’s life in the 1960s, it did make me feel uncomfortable from time to time.

Having said all that, the book really is fascinating, as it goes into a lot of detail about how Abagnale pulled off so many remarkable scams. If you enjoyed the movie, I recommend picking up the book, too.


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