Read an in-depth assessment of Logan's book by literary critic and Catch Me if You Can fan!
By Joseph Haeger, from the Independent Book Review
"A fascinating in-depth book that dismantles the myth of the greatest self-proclaimed con man to ever live, Frank Abagnale".
I was in high school when Catch Me If You Can came out and I absolutely loved it. Steven Spielberg has always been up there as one of my favorite directors, and this to me is one of his best movies. The subject matter is so strange and over the top that I felt it had to be true. Right?
Hollywood embellishes, of course, but I’ve always imagined the core narrative of the Frank Abagnale story explored in that movie was close to the truth. It had been around for 20+ years, hitting the mainstream when Abagnale published his autobiography in 1980. As incredible as it all was, if it was a load of BS, someone would’ve figured that out.
Or so I thought.
The story of Frank Abagnale starts in the sixties when, as a teenager, he posed as a Pan American pilot to travel the world while also cashing millions of dollars’ worth of phony checks. He moved on from this grift to impersonate a doctor, college professor, and lawyer, all while staying one step ahead of the FBI.
But here’s the thing: it’s all bunk. Alan C. Logan takes the Abagnale tale apart in The Greatest Hoax on Earth: Catching Truth, While We Can. Using first-person accounts from Paula Parks--a Delta flight attendant who Abagnale stalked--and Mark Zinder— Abagnale’s former manager--they crack open the truth and, through hard evidence and countless interviews, prove Abagnale isn’t everything he’s built himself up to be. Rather, he might be a bumbling fool that somehow lucked into landing on his feet time after time after time.
Parks and Zinder bring a human element to the story, but Logan is still able to weave in hard facts to solidify his case. He has the documents from the time Abagnale spent in prison when he was supposedly globetrotting and cashing fraudulent checks. That’s just the beginning.
One of the biggest aspects of the Abagnale myth is how he only targeted big corporations, never stealing from individuals. That’s where Parks comes in. While Abagnale was romantically pursuing her, he embedded himself into her life, eventually living with her parents. At the time, everyone in the community loved him, but what they didn’t know was how he was stealing from a handful of them. This was a trusting and tight-knit community until Abagnale swooped in and gave them reasons to doubt. Without Parks’ perspective, we’d just be speculating how Abagnale’s victims must have felt, but with it, we can tether ourselves to that emotional reality.
The Greatest Hoax on Earth is told in a non-linear fashion. We bounce around to when Mark Zinder represented the con man in the eighties, back to the seventies when Abagnale was trying to pull low-level cons, and even further to our current day when he’s still on the speaking circuit. At times I thought it would have been more effective to tell the story in a tidy chronological fashion, but when I start thinking about it, I can see how that could diminish the tension and success of this book. Abagnale has twisted his own story into so many different knots it’s clear he’s not sure where they all are. Rather than tell it like a traditional story, we first need to understand how far-reaching Abagnale’s lies are, and only then can we take a closer look at illusion he’s created.
“A shocking and eye-opening must-read for all”
“A fascinating, true-crime expose.
Logan succeeds on every level”
“Logan masterfully weaves his research into an intriguing, entertaining, cohesive story
that’s difficult to put down”
Blue Ink (Starred Review)
“Entrances from the opening,
doesn't let go of its hold until the very end”
Portland Book Review
“Exposes Abagnale's greatest deception.
Not the master criminal he pretends to have been”
“A compelling and shocking read”
“Provides evidence that Abagnale’s grifts
were grubby rather than glamorous”
San Francisco Book Review
“Upends one of America’s most fascinating modern legends”
“An investigative gemstone that deserves a great deal of praise”
“This meticulously researched well-written expose is a treatise on how easily hoaxes can occur in the post-truth era. Providing victims a voice, Logan restores the truth to its rightful place”
US Review of Books
“Highly enjoyable forensic examination of a pop culture myth”