Catch Me If You Can
by Frank Abagnale
I firmly believe that if a person reads only science fiction, they will be incapable of writing good science fiction. Passable science fiction, I have no doubt. Perhaps, given enough talent and luck, even slightly better than mediocre science fiction. However, it is good to have as wide a base as possible for someone to draw from as they write.
What does that have to do with this book? Well, it’s out of the ordinary for this site. Usually I review books that are either science fiction or fantasy or directly about the Christian Faith in some way. This book is none of the above. This is the autobiography of a con man.
Frank Abagnale figured out how to fake payroll checks. Pan Am paid his “salary” for years before he was caught, drawing over three million dollars over the 60’s and 70’s. He faked being a pilot, even making his own FAA license. He orchestrated a series of photo shoots for Pan Am stewardesses and paid them and himself with his fake checks. He eluded the law, escaped from prison, and even survived being imprisoned in France. The book reads like an amazing movie – it’s no wonder they eventually turned it into a movie, though having not seen it, I can’t comment on the faithfulness of the cinematic version.
I recommend this story. If you like Lando Calrission, if Harcourt Fenton Mudd appeals to you, if you wish Ocean’s Eleven spoke the truth, read this book. You will love it. The prose is definitely period; there were more than a few idioms I’d never encountered before. However, the adventure and the friendly tone overcome any communication problems.
What does this have to do with science fiction or Christian literature?
Taking the latter first: It’s fascinating seeing the author examine himself. We see a man who admits what he does is wrong, but at least in writing he does not seem to regret anything. This is a perfect picture of natural humanity: I will find an excuse to cover whatever I have done wrong.
As far as science fiction, you can read this and find a great model for any con man. You have a likable protagonist who is smart but flawed. You see how to flim-flam anyone. Even more, it’s a pleasant way to break into autobiography if you find yourself locked into one genre in your reading. Try something new; you won’t regret this one.
Even if you’re not looking to improve your writing, check this book out. It’s just plain fun.