Catch Me If You Can – Frank Abagnale

From December 28, 2011

 

I saw the movie with Tom Hanks and Leonardo DiCaprio long before I knew that Frank Abagnale had written a book, but as soon as my ignorance was lifted, I knew I had to read the story.

 

The enjoyable thing about reading a biography, or a non-fiction book such as this is the straightforward writing style.  The reader doesn’t have to spend a lot of time deciphering cryptic or symbolic passages.  On the other hand, biographies have their own set of problems, chief among them being a dry, fact-based narrative that causes boredom (Bill Clinton’s biography “My Life” suffered that fault).  I am happy to say that this book did not succumb to the boredom factor, though.  I breezed through it in a few days because it was well written, and the subject matter was interesting.

 

It is quite frightening to think that Mr. Abagnale got away with as much as he did, especially impersonating a doctor and a pilot.  Thankfully, he never had to fly a plane or perform a procedure on a patient.  Both Pan Am and the hospital where he was hired to work would have had a legal mess on their hands.  In fact, I have to wonder what the ramifications were for some of Abagnale’s scams.  The book deals with the the consequences to Frank for his cons, but not what happened to the companies, hospital, or Attorney General’s office.  I would imagine that there must have been a confidentiality clause of some sort.

 

As can be said for many others in history, Abagnale was working his scams at the right time.  in the 1960’s people did not expect a pilot to be a con artist.  With his understanding of cheque processing, and his daring, Abagnale was able to pull off a scam that couldn’t work in today’s highly technological society, but he wasn’t without daring.

 

Criminals, as a rule aren’t as intelligent as Abagnale, or as willing to put in the effort to carry out their  swindle.  Reading a story like this always brings to mind one thought: if the criminal put as much effort into a legitimate job as they put into their con, they would be successful without the police tail.  It was, therefore, interesting to read that Abagnale, in the end, did some legitimate work and ended up making as much money as he had stolen.  it now makes sense to me why this book was released more than twenty years after Abagnale’s crimes took place: he had already instructed all the banks on how to prevent it from happening again!

 

Vocabulary:

Antipathy (adjective) – showing or feeling a strong aversion.

Insouciance (adjective) – casual lack of concern; indifference

Gendarme (noun) – armed police in France, or French speaking countries

Hoary (adjective) – a greyish-white

Machinations (intransitive verb) – to engage in plots and intrigues; schemes

Stygian (adjective) – Of, or relating to, the river Styx

Tastevin (noun) – A small, shallow cup for tasting wines

Gregarious (adjective) – Fond of company; sociable

Avaricious (adjective) – Having or showing extreme greed for wealth or material gain.

Tenable (adjective) – 1. able to be maintained or defended against attack or objection

2. (of an office, position, or scholarship) able to be held or used

Venal (adjective) – Showing or motivated by susceptibility to bribery

Gamin (noun) – A Street Urchin

Penurious (adjective) – Extremely poor; poverty stricken

Boodle (noun) – Money, especially that gained or spent illegally

Coprolite (noun) – A piece of fossilized dung

Scion (cion) (noun) – A Descendant of notable family, or one with a long lineage

Lugubrious (adjective) – Looking or sounding sad or dismal

Reconnoiter (transitive verb) – To make a military observation of an area

Nebulous (adjective) – Unclear, hazy or ill-defined

Pontifical (adjective) – 1. Relating to the pope

2. A pompous or superior air of infallibility

Glib (adjective) – Fluent and voluble but insincere or shallow

Voluble – (adjective) Speaking or spoken incessantly and fluently

Erstwhile (adjective) – former

Ersatz (adjective) Made or used as a substitute, especially an inferior one, for something else

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