Catch me if you can

Frank Abagnale, Stan Redding

Why I looked at this book

The working of our economy depends very much on trust. Yes caveat emptor: we should check out the facts any deal we are making. But doing so takes time and time=money. Sometimes it's worth taking the risk that all may not be as it is presented. I'm looking to this book to shows how easy it is for someone to abuse that trust. But as they say Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. Maybe it's inevitable that people will get away with fooling us sometimes, but the question is: how can someone get away with it time after time. I'm also hoping this book might point out how it could be easier to keep track of someone who goes in for such trickery..

First impressions

In the introduction Abagnale says that during his criminal career he never felt like a criminal. It's clear that we'e supposed to feel the same way too, and indeed it's hard not to admire the smooth talking young man who just passed a few dud cheques to finance his lifestyle. It's interesting to note that his father forgave him the $3400 of his first con. Was he duped or did he see his son as a chip off the old block, just going a bit too far? It's hard to tell. In any case the book promises to be an entertaining read.

Main review

As I read this book, I began to wonder whether it was really a work of fiction. There was the scheme for taking a group of intern stewardesses round Europe - it was hard to believe that no one would realise it was phoney. And could the prison conditions in France and Sweden really be so vastly different? But there was no indication that it was anything other than fact, and I came to realise that some what Abagnale says seems to be just too crazy to be fiction. When he was first caught in France he was put in jail with no contact with the outside world. Surely the authorities should have been trying to track down his illicit wealth (and maybe return some to it's rightful owners). When he cashed a phoney Pan Am cheque there was often a phone call to Pan Am to check it's validity. They OK'd it. Why? They must have known that someone was cashing phoney cheques. And Abagnale is now a security consultant, so it seemed obvious that he was offered a deal - time off his sentence in return for his expert knowledge. No, that would be too sensible, in fact when he got out of prison it took quite a while for his talents to be utilised. Quite a few times he got a basic job without too much fuss, but then his obvious management potential would be spotted, and his past would catch up with him. This isn't the sort of stuff you'd make up - unless you were Franz Kafka maybe. It seems to illustrate one of the main rules from Systemantics, The Systems Bible which is Most systems work in failure mode

Some time ago I read Trickster Makes This World, which looks at the idea of a trickster figure who is there to liven up the world - to stop it from getting too stagnant. I can't help feeling that Abagnale was such a figure. And I would certainly say that reading the book will liven up your life a bit.
Coming soon:
Reviews Elsewhere
Why not follow the Twitter feed?
In 1930, John Maynard Keynes wrote Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, predicting an age of leisure in a couple of generations. Why aren't we there yet? That's just one of the questions asked in
The People's Economics