The checks from the Leo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks blockbuster had long been legitimately cashed before I found my copy of Catch Me If You Can on a dusty shelf of my local used bookstore. Honestly, I didn’t even realize it was a first edition of the Pocket Books Paperback before today. The hard back was released in 1980, my copy two years later. Regardless, I picked it up on a whim because I had enjoyed the movie so much.
I wasn’t expecting much from the book. Hadn’t looked at the Amazon reviews until today (4.5 stars from many happy readers). I’m glad that I didn’t. It may have made the experience less enjoyable. I was pulled into my yellow stained pages from the opening sentence. I couldn’t be wrangled form the pages until I reached the very last punctuation mark. This was a cover to cover, one sitting read. I had started at midnight, planned to read for an hour. Before I knew it, dawn approached. I had taken in five years of heart pounding adventure in one night.
It is no wonder the movie was good. The source material was wonderfully written. We know Frank Abagnale, Jr. is a confidence man. We know this is a book about his crimes. You still cheer for him to get away. You feel his terror in prison. You weep at the family tragedy. You’re marveled by his ingenuity. You’re energized by every cashed check and every daring escape. You’ll be exhausted by the last page.
It fascinates me that Frank Abagnale, Jr. managed to cram so much exciting life into his life between 16 and 21. I am in awe of his ability to assume a role. I was only worried about school and girls during this period in my life. Frank was conning the world and developing expertise that would change the way the globe handles checks. It’s not the crime that fascinates me, but the boldness.
Even so, as someone who deals with security and fraud on a regular basis, Catch Me If You Can is a primer into the mind of the con man. The way Frank exploits people and processes is timeless. Security conscious people will be learning from Frank’s escapades for decades to come. He was a master of “social engineering” before the term ever existed.
If you haven’t read the book, buy it today. You will not regret it.