Abagnale’s book Catch Me If You Can likely seems familiar. Steven Spielberg brought the story to the big screen in 2002, with stars like Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hanks and Christopher Walken taking on the major roles.
The film details how Abagnale not only ran a complex and professional cheque fraud scheme – defrauding banks, businesses and individuals around the world – but also how he masqueraded as a Pan Am Co-Pilot, a pediatrician, and a lawyer. And it was in watching the film (many times over) that I was drawn Abagnale’s own narrative of his various misadventures. How could anyone do that? How does one get away with such blatant forgery? In terms of real life: just how true was it?
As it turns out: pretty darn true.
This is because Frank W. Abagnale is a rogue.
He’s a cheat; a fink. He’s a charlatan and a fraud and gives the word swindler a bad name. But, he is also a charmer, and it’s his ability to beguile, and in many ways seduce, his prey that allows him to get away with his illegal activities. He’s an interesting character, not only in his ability to persuade and manipulate, but in his dedication to his various roles; he took the time to learn the jargon, know the statistics, educate and immerse himself in the life he was living, whoever’s life that happened to be at the time.
Hollywood sensationalizes even the best story, but even after all of the glamour is removed Abagnale’s story is a fascinating one. This man, with no credentials other than a nice face and a talent for charm, successfully duped most everyone he met. It shows that good luck and kind words can take a person a long way… even if that way eventually leads to prison.
If this book tickles your fancy, you also might find yourself interested in: Charlatan: America’s most dangerous huckster, the man who pursued him, and the age of flimflam by Pope Brock and The Man in the Rockefeller Suit: the astonishing rise and spectacular fall of a serial imposter by Mark Seal.