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4.7 out of 5 stars130
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on 14 April 2003
… and there was nothing wrong with the film! Although the film was only ‘inspired by’ the book, perhaps 30-40% of the book is in the film. With one or two notable exceptions (the relationship between FBI and Abagnale, and Franks con of fellow schoolmates, which is not in the book, and the ending of the film) I found the book to be far more fascinating than the film.
From his first con of his father, through his career as paperhanger, cheque swindler and con man, Frank Abagnale at 17 was at the time the youngest of his breed ever. Here he describes how he was able to take advantage of banks, airlines (one of his most successful scams as a co-pilot allowed him to travel throughout the USA and then the rest of the world), hospitals, universities… almost any institution one might care to name. Frank scammed them all, with charm, flair and ingenuity. He was caught occasionally, and if he couldn’t talk his way out of it, he could usually escape (not from the French, and he didn’t even try with the Swedes). Far from being a hardened criminal, Frank essentially did this to fund adventures with women, much like any teen might want to do. Frank’s sheer out and out daring, his intelligence, his ability to lie at the drop of a hat and unrepentantly, and the unorthodox nature of his crimes make for compelling reading. The book does end a little up in the air, but this is resolved by an Afterword.
A charming and entertaining read.
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on 19 August 2004
I'll admit it. I never would have read this book if it was not for the movie that came out last year. I still haven't seen the movie but decided that perhaps the book would be interesting since it was written by the subject of the movie. I didn't learn until the end of the book (in a Q&A section with the author) that this was written in 1980. Abagnale has a very easy going style and it almost feels like he is right there next to you telling you this wild story of his youth.
Catch Me If You Can is an interesting, exciting, fast paced novel that is a pure joy to read. I don't know if I can put it better than that. This was a book that I simply did not want to put down and I flew through the book. The plot of the memoir is the criminal career of Frank Abagnale (he has since paid his debt to society and now works to prevent exactly the sort of crime that he once committed). Frank Abagnale was a con man. He began his career at a young age (15) conning gas station attendants to give him cash when he pays with his father's credit card. The leads to Frank leaving home, moving to New York City and trying to begin an honest life. Unfortunately, Frank's one main vice is women, and to be with women he needs to have more money than a 16 year old high school dropout can earn. So he begins to con.
Frank's primary method of conning was passing bad checks. However, he found that it is easier to make the con if he is a member of a well respected profession. Frank researches every role that he plays so that he will be as convincing as humanly possible without actually having to do that job. In some cases, he was able to con so well that he was paid for it and he didn't have to forge checks. The professions that Frank had impersonated were: Pilot, Doctor (he was paid to be on staff but not actually have to practice for nearly a year), Lawyer (he managed to pass the bar on his third try and worked as a laywer despite having no background in law), and a Professor (he taught two summer courses). The reason everything worked so well was that Frank is an extremely smart man and nobody expected this sort of con.
As was expected (and as Frank expected), he was eventually caught (and escaped, and was caught again), and part of the book dealt with Frank's ride through the prison systems (France and Sweden play prominent roles).
I can't say enough good things about this book. It was so interesting to read and I would recommend it to anybody.
-Joe Sherry
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on 10 October 2001
From his adolescent beginnings as a conman, Frank Abagnale takes the reader on a journey through some of the most imaginative and audacious con tricks ever dreamed up. While it is goes against common decency to applaud confidence tricksters, this book is written with such good humour and candour that it is impossible not to feel enormous warmth towards Frank Abagnale. Some of the scams are stunning in their simplicity while the care and detail needed to accomplish others is breaktaking. This is not a conventional book with a conventional storyline - rather it is a series of snapshots detailing Abagnale's "white collar" crimes. The reader's conscience is somewhat appeased by the fact that Abagnale mainly targeted large corporations rather than individuals (the episode as a security guard outside a night safe was borderline!) and the storyline involving Pan Am and the overseas "PR" trip had me rocking with laughter. This is the story of a man who didn't finish High School and yet successfully (most of the time) impersonated doctors, air line pilots and a raft of other professionals. My feeling about this book is that crime may pay but - as Abagnale goes on to prove - honesty pays more! All will be revealed at the end of the book with perhaps Abignale's finest scam of all! An unqualified recommendation !
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on 16 May 2001
As autobiographies go, Frank Abagnale has a hell of a story to tell. The genius scams, his incredible escapes from justice and his bare-faced cheek make this a great story and a good read. However, I feel there are one or two points that let it down. Mr Abagnale does not seem to go into very much detail. I understand that names and places have been changed, so he can not say much that would give away any true identities, and also there is the small risk of people attempting to copy his tricks, so maybe the lack of detail is understandable. The story also seems to be left unfinished. I was left wondering what happened next, and I don't believe there is enough material left for a sequel. Finally, and this is just me being picky, there are several spelling and glaring punctuation mistakes in the text, and I would expect better from a published book. On the whole though, a satisfying read that was hard to put down. And well recommended.
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on 8 February 2004
In an era when it is not unknown for a head of state to be judicially appointed rather than popularly elected, a highly entertaining tale of fraud, deceit, imposture, and usurpation seems highly appropriate. Unlike recent cameos of a winsome actress caught shoplifting or of a Hollywood "bagel-baby" producer caught forging the signature of a granite-jawed actor on a personal check, the reader of Catch Me if You Can is treated to snapshots of the protagonist - a high-school dropout - passing a southern state's bar examination and appointed an assistant attorney general, awarded a license to practice medicine in the state of Georgia, hired as a university professor of sociology in Utah, handed the controls of a 707, hiring coeds to model Pan Am uniforms throughout Europe. One close-up of the "doctor" at work will suffice: "This guy had a complaint about his foot. 'I'm a pediatrician. You want a podiatrist.' That one had mysterious pains in his stomach. 'I suggest you talk to your own doctor.' A brunette had an 'odd, tight feeling' around her upper chest. I examined the brunette. Her brassiere was too small." But the escape artist's "luck" also has a dark side: arrested and thrown into a dungeon in Perpignan, France; fed only bread, gruel, and water; never permitted to bathe, shave, or attend to other personal hygiene; harassed by sadistic guards; and left to rot for six months, he is finally extradited to humane Sweden suffering from severe malnutrition, vitamin deficiency, and double pneumonia. After recovering for six months, he is saved from extradition to Italy and then Spain, in whose barbaric prisons he faces certain death, by a compassionate judge who orders him deported to the U.S., whence, once he has served an additional four years' sentence, as an American citizen he cannot be extradited, and where he is ultimately rehabilitated and redeemed into a productive, married member of society who specializes in the detection and prevention of fraud.
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Frank Abagnale was a sixteen-year-old with his first checking account. It's no surprise that he quickly overspends and his account is overdrawn. Instead of facing the problem, he runs away from it. His similarity to other teens ends here.

Because he looks ten years older than his true age, Frank is able to pass as an adult. He learns to make and cash bogus checks and begins traveling around the country disguised as an airline pilot. His quick wits keep him a few steps ahead of the FBI as he also impersonates a doctor, a lawyer--even on occasion an FBI agent. The story becomes incredible as he organizes and conducts a phony European "goodwill ambassador tour" unwillingly funded by his favorite airline. Frank is finally apprehended, does time in a series of European prisons, and escapes while being returned to the United States. His life becomes less eventful as he is finally recaptured, serves more time, and ends up putting his forging skills to work for the FBI to catch other criminals.

Franks cleverness is impressive as is his casual attitude toward the impersonal institutions and personal friends he cons. One hopes he has turned into a more considerate adult in his subsequent careers with the FBI and as a white-collar crime consultant in the private sector. This book is worth reading to help us understand the life of a criminal who lives by his wits. It is also worth reading for its sheer entertainment value. If you have not yet seen the movie Catch Me If You Can, I would recommend reading this book first.

A personal reaction: I first encountered this book on sale for a dollar in a used book bin in the Brigham Young University Bookstore. The cover indicated that Frank had hid out for a summer passing himself off as a visiting sociology instructor at BYU. He was apparently a popular teacher and taught his classes by staying one chapter ahead of the students in the textbook and making heavy use of in-class role playing and other activities. Quite plausible--as a graduate student in psychology I "faked" my way through my first classes the same way. Nobody ever caught me, either...
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Catch Me If You Can is Frank Abagnale's account of his life as a con man. If you've seen the movie, you only know half of the things Frank did. His book is thrilling, incredible, and true.
At the age of 16, Frank ran away from home; his parents were separating and he just took off for New York City. In the 60s, air travel was rare and glamorous; airline pilots and stewardesses were considered by many to lead exciting and jet-setting lives. Frank, armed with supreme confidence, charm, and intelligence, successfully posed as an airline pilot, attorney (he even passed the bar!), a physician, and a college professor, while living the good life with millions of dollars he got from passing bad checks in over 20 countries; and all of this before he was twenty-one years of age.
Frank's wild exploits are told in a humerous, quick-paced style that is very readable. The joy he found in living the high life and romancing countless ladies around the world is matched by the the utter despair he faced in a brutal French prison where he was entombed in solitary confinement, in total darkness, unclothed, for months.
It's clear that Frank knew he was doing wrong, but was so addicted to the high he got from conning that he couldn't (and didn't want to) stop. The fantastic things that are shown in the film are only a few of his capers. That he is now a respected authority on counterfeiting and, in fact, teaches at the FBI Academy is evidence that Frank can do anything he wants to. This is a very exciting and enjoyable book!
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on 15 August 2001
This is one of the most enjoyable books I have ever read. It really is amazing to think that someone could really have the bare-faced cheek to pull off the stunts that he did. Thats what makes it even better that he really did do the scams and escapes. Excellent!!
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on 4 August 2003
Having seen the film of Frank Abagnales life, I was interested to see how much was pure fiction, and how much was truth.Not one to really read an auto-biography, I thouroughly enjoyed this.It was extremley well written and I found that at times I could not put it down. If you enjoyed the film Catch me if you can, then you wiil surely enjoy this book.
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on 11 October 2011
I watched the film and then months later picked up the book whilst I was travelling. I'm glad I did because I had never come accross such a funny and exciting thriller like this before; it being a true account and all makes it extra classy as well. This book really is ingenius just like the author who could convince anybody that he was... well, anybody! I was sceptical about buying the book at first, especially after seeing and enjoying the film so much, but now I can't even watch the film with seriousness. This book just rips it to shreds, everything Frank Abignale jr does and says in this book is marvelous and I found myself gripped to every word; I found myself biting my nails and off the edge of my seat in attempt to catch every word the author had written - it really was that sensational. There is so much in the book in which is not in the film and some of it I thought WOW... what happened there? Why did they change it for the screenplay? Jesus, they certainly messed up there!
This book is so good I leant it to my Grandad after I'd read it and he even phoned me up to thank me and tell me how great it was... but I had to calm him down and tell him that I already knew! Anyway, last words... READ THIS BOOK OR MISS OUT... SIMPLES!
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