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Catch Me If You Can Paperback – August 1, 2000

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Editorial Reviews Review

When this true-crime story first appeared in 1980, it made the New York Times bestseller list within weeks. Two decades later, it's being rereleased in conjunction with a film version produced by DreamWorks. In the space of five years, Frank Abagnale passed $2.5 million in fraudulent checks in every state and 26 foreign countries. He did it by pioneering implausible and brazen scams, such as impersonating a Pan Am pilot (puddle jumping around the world in the cockpit, even taking over the controls). He also played the role of a pediatrician and faked his way into the position of temporary resident supervisor at a hospital in Georgia. Posing as a lawyer, he conned his way into a position in a state attorney general's office, and he taught a semester of college-level sociology with a purloined degree from Columbia University.

The kicker is, he was actually a teenage high school dropout. Now an authority on counterfeiting and secure documents, Abagnale tells of his years of impersonations, swindles, and felonies with humor and the kind of confidence that enabled him to pull off his poseur performances. "Modesty is not one of my virtues. At the time, virtue was not one of my virtues," he writes. In fact, he did it all for his overactive libido--he needed money and status to woo the girls. He also loved a challenge and the ego boost that came with playing important men. What's not disclosed in this highly engaging tale is that Abagnale was released from prison after five years on the condition that he help the government write fraud-prevention programs. So, if you're planning to pick up some tips from this highly detailed manifesto on paperhanging, be warned: this master has already foiled you. --Lesley Reed


"A book that captivates from first page to last."
-West Coast Review of Books

"Whatever the reader may think of his crimes, the reader will wind up chortling with and cheering along the criminal."
-Charlottesville Progress

"Zingingly told...  richly detailed and winning as the devil."
-Kirkus Reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 277 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books (August 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0767905385
  • ISBN-13: 978-0767905381
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (593 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #35,818 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

126 of 130 people found the following review helpful By Gaetan Lion on June 10, 2003
Format: Paperback
I really enjoyed the movie, but I did not believe any of it. How could a 16 year old pull off all these scams posing successfully as an airline pilot, lawyer, doctor, and FBI agent. Only in Hollywood! I had to read the book to uncover the truth. To my amazement, almost nothing in the movie was dramatized. Frank Abagnale did it all. And, this even includes the acrobatic escape from a commercial plane as it lands.

The book depicts a far richer story than the movie. At the start, the family situation is more complex. The scams are more intricate. The career path is more extraordinary. The movie skipped over interesting jobs, including a stint as a college sociology teacher.

Also amazing is that this teenager acquired far more knowledge about the meaning of every single digit on a personal check than any banker I know. And, I know, having been engaged in banking and finance for over two decades.

Frank's character development make the whole story more likely. Frank was not your regular 16 year old dude. At 16, he could easily pass for a fit 25 year old. He was 6 feet tall, 170 pounds. He also acquired quite a real world education by hanging out with his Dad. His Dad exposed him to political, business, and social circles that teenagers do not know. Thus, Frank Abagnale, being a keen observer, learned quickly how adults behave among themselves.

Frank was also strikingly handsome, and confident. So, the story includes many romantic interludes. This aspect of life is described most tastefully. There is nothing graphic here. And, it does not detract from the story. To the contrary, women were a key element in this scammer's education. They were often insiders to the professions he attempted to fake.
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59 of 64 people found the following review helpful By Dave Schwinghammer VINE VOICE on December 12, 2002
Format: Paperback
One can't help but be impressed by Frank Abagnale's resourcefulness at such a tender age. At the age of sixteen he manages to forge a pilot's license and "deadhead" his way around the country bouncing checks. He also passes himself off as an pediatrician, a college professor, and an assistant district attorney. The last is probably his most impressive exploit, as he passes the bar exam (on his third try) with only two years of high school.
After years of exploiting the gullibility of bank tellers and airline clerks, Abagnale is finally captured in France, where he spends six hellacious months in a Devil's Island of a prison. He is then transferred to a Swedish prison, a one hundred and eighty degrees difference, more like a college dorm than a prison. He could've spent the rest of his life being handed from one European penal system to another, some of them vying for brutality with France, but he is saved by a Swedish judge who extradites him to the U.S. Back home, he escapes from apprehension at the airport and from prison later, embarrassing the F.B.I. and his nemesis agent O'Reilly. But, by then, just about every law enforcement official in America is on the lookout for him. He is ultimately captured and does four years jail time, only to emerge once more smelling like a rose. After a few years bouncing around doing such scut work as managing a grocery store and a pizza joint, he convinces a bank manager to let him give a lecture to his employees on how to spot a "paperhanger." From there, he's referred to another bank and another and so on. These days he teaches at the F.B.I Academy.
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40 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Kona VINE VOICE on January 1, 2003
Format: Paperback
Catch Me If You Can is Frank Abagnale's account of his life as a con man. His book is thrilling, incredible, and true. When he was 16, Frank's parents separated and he ran away to New York City. 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 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 didn't want to stop. Frank is now a respected authority on counterfeiting and, in fact, teaches at the FBI Academy. This is a very exciting book!
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34 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Jussi Bjorling on August 1, 2000
Format: Paperback
I used to have a copy of the original 1980 edition of Abagnale's book, and lost a good friend several years ago when he skipped town with it. I've been waiting for the re-release anxiously.
You might expect it to be hard to root for someone with multiple felony convictions to get away with it. In fact, Abagnale's story is so interesting and so funny that you can't help but like him. This is reinforced by the fact that he seems to have so much fun with it himself, often playing up a role more than he strictly needs to, with hilarious results.
This book is terrific. There are no slack moments, no dull episodes, and some of them are outstanding (the time when he poses as a pediatrician and has to feign medical knowledge is perhaps the funniest thing I've ever read, followed closely by his attempt to pass himself off as an assistant attorney general). The fact that Abagnale has come clean and now works on the right side of the law is just one more reason to buy and read this tremendous book.
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