The Greatest Hoax on Earth by Alan C. Logan

The Greatest Hoax on Earth: Catching Truth While We Can

Title:Catch Me if You Can: The True Story of a Real Fake
Author(s):Alan C. Logan
Publisher:Alan C. Logan
Published:December 1, 2020
Date Added:May 22, 2023
calibre ID:e-2290
Date Finished:n/a

About the Book

When the truth is far stranger than fiction.

Award-winning author masterfully unmasks the myth of Frank “Catch Me If You Can” Abagnale with meticulous research and the voices of those who know the truth…and what a trip.

In 1969, Delta flight attendant Paula Parks discovers a strange man is following her. She is soon horrified to learn that he has moved into her parents’ home in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and is sleeping in her bed. Posing as a pilot, his ruse is quickly discovered, but not before he is caught stealing from her family and other locals. Startled by more revelations in letters written by the 21-year-old criminal from jail, Paula’s parents lock them away…never imagining where those letters would one day lead.

For decades, Frank W. Abagnale’s story has captured the imagination of audiences around the world as a modern-day folk hero-but the truth could not be more different from the fictitious autobiography he sold to Hollywood. Self-proclaimed as “the world’s greatest con man,” the true dimensions of Abagnale’s hoax are revealed for the first time in this dramatic true story.

A shocking new reality emerges through the voices of victims, their families, and others who have seen the truth concealed by decades of deception. Their stories are now exquisitely woven into a tapestry of hard evidence and insights from his former manager, Mark Zinder. The result is a fast-paced drama filled with heroes, villains, mystery and intrigue, answered with unquestionable facts and official records-all definitively disproving Abagnale’s longstanding claims of roaming the world as a “teenage millionaire imposter” and working for the District Attorney in Baton Rouge.

The Greatest Hoax reveals the very different world of a grown man still running small-time grifts in the mid-1970s-living in his parole officer’s garage after he was caught stealing from a Houston children’s camp. This makes his overnight rise to stardom all the more stunning. Selling fiction as fact, the con man found his greatest mark in global audiences. And the world bought it. In the inverted reality of the post-truth era, this book reveals that Frank W. Abagnale may have earned the mantle of “the world’s greatest con man” for entirely different reasons. It sets the scene for his return to Baton Rouge where comes face to face with Paula Parks, fifty years after he was arrested there.

“Far as I’m concerned, he’s a fraud, [it’s] absolutely untrue and preposterous!”

Attorney General Jack P.F. Gremillion, Baton Rouge, on Frank W. Abagnale, 1981.

The Greatest Hoax is a grand pursuit. With meticulous detail, it traces the strange-but-true movements of the enigmatic con man Frank W. Abagnale. With a remarkably diverse trail of forensic evidence-public records, witness statements, local reporting, stand-out journalism, and the con man’s own words-the jigsaw puzzle is assembled piece by piece. What an amazing picture it shows-but not at all compatible with his autobiography Catch Me if You Can or the films and musicals it spawned.

With the aid of facts and the words of those left in the con man’s wake, The Greatest Hoax unmasks the viral spread of a myth that escaped a “lab” in Houston, Texas, circa 1976. Far more than a debunking exercise, this true story is written with exquisite explanatory narrative, creating a parable of our times. The deep analysis within The Greatest Hoax is filled with suspense while also providing a meaningful wake-up call in the post-truth era

Source: Barnes & Noble


Was the Story of Catch Me If You Can Frank Abagnale Jr.’s Greatest Con?

By Matt Miller | May 5, 2021

A new book says the story of a teenager who posed as a pilot, a doctor, and a lawyer that inspired the beloved Steven Spielberg film might have all been one brilliant lie.

Though it might not be as famous as any of the Indiana Jones movies or Jurassic Park or Saving Private RyanCatch Me if You Can has always quietly been one of Steven Spielberg’s greatest films. In fact, Catch Me if You Can is actually ranked as Spielberg’s fourth-best directorial effort on Rotten Tomatoes, above any of his other movies I’ve mentioned here.

Leonardo DiCaprio stars as real life con man Frank Abagnale Jr., who throughout the ’60s and ’70s cashed more than $2 million in fake checks and successfully posed as a doctor, a lawyer, a college professor, and a pilot for Pan American airlines. According to Abagnale’s own story, he began conning at the age of 15 and was hunted throughout his teenage years by the FBI (Tom Hanks plays the fictional agent Carl Hanratty, loosely based on Joseph Shea who was a friend of Abagnale). The film also shows Abagnale escape twice from the FBI—once from a plane as it was on the runway at JFK and again from a detention center in Atlanta.

It’s an incredible story. But a new book from journalist Alan C. Logan says Abagnale’s version of things—and the movie’s narrative—might be his greatest con.

Using public records and interviews, Logan outlines a very different story in The Greatest Hoax on Earth: Catching Truth, While We Can.

“What really happened was that, dressed as a TWA (Trans World Airlines) pilot, which he only did for a few weeks, [Abagnale] befriended a flight attendant called Paula Parks,” Logan told WHYY podcast The Pulse. “He followed her all over the Eastern Seaboard, identified her work schedule through deceptive means, and essentially stalked the woman.”

This is far from the sexy, charming, almost Bond-like version of the story we see in Catch Me If You Can.

“So Abagnale’s narrative that between the ages of 16 and 20, he was on the run, chased all over the United States and even internationally by the FBI. This is completely fictitious,” Logan told The Pulse. “Public records obtained by me show that he was confined for the most part in prison during those years.”

Logan says that Abagnale started inventing the version of the story we see in Catch Me If You Can after he appeared on the 1977 game show To Tell The Truth (there’s a recreation of this episode in the film, even). This led to multiple appearances on television, speaking engagements, a best-selling book, and, of course, the Spielberg film.

But, hey, maybe conning all of us for nearly half a century into believing he was the world’s greatest con man is Abagnale’s greatest con.

Source: Esquire


Review: The Greatest Hoax on Earth by Alan C. Logan

January 11, 2021

Upending one of America’s most fascinating modern legends, The Greatest Hoax on Earth: Catching Truth, While We Can by Alan C. Logan is a revelatory historical exposé. For those who have seen the movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio or read the book Catch Me If You Can, Frank Abagnale Jr. may not be a an unfamiliar figure, but as this book proves, that charming and wildly successful con man may not deserve his legacy.

It is clear that the author spent years accumulating the impressive catalogue of evidence this book presents, not to mention organizing and arranging it to deliver a compelling narrative. Utilizing the insight from countless individuals – though leaning heavily on Paula Campbell and Mark Zinder – the author methodically unravels the real truth of this young swindler, rather than working to rebuke the stories that Abagnale has held to be true for most of his life.

Through witness reports, newspaper clippings, personal letters, interviews with victims, and other sources of the public and private record, the author tears down the self-constructed facade of Abagnale to show that the “millions” he claims to have swindled from Pan Am may have only totaled a few thousand, and the luxurious lifestyle that DiCaprio showcased on screen was likely a gross overstatement.

History has made Abagnale into a silver-tongued folk hero, but Logan argues that the greatest con he ever pulled was convincing people of his own clever schemes and rampant criminal success. Despite contradictory claims, the difficulty of finding “proof” in a pre-internet era, and the secretive nature of Abagnale to cover his own deceptive tracks, this book is an investigative gemstone that deserves a great deal of praise.

Aside from the pure historical relevance of getting this truth out, there is also the matter of this book’s place in today’s tumultuous conversation. Time and time again in this tale of a con artist we see lies and manipulation that resonate with large groups of people – a situation reflected in our own era, when truth and fact are increasingly up for debate. Charlatans and liars are nothing new, and must be identified when they rise to power; this book is a hard-hitting reminder that diligence and critical thinking are essential weapons against con men and leaders alike.

Technically speaking, the book is neatly edited, smartly structured and easy to follow, even if one isn’t familiar with the case. The narrative occasionally drags, and can be too procedural in the day-to-day accounts of Abagnale’s behavior that don’t seem crucial to the story. Additionally, it is clear that Logan has a personal dislike of Abagnale, or at least strong disapproval mixed with begrudging respect, which marks the writing style. At times, this authorial opinion can make the story feel snarky, angry, or even petty, but this personal and emotional investment also makes the writing come across as even more impactful than traditional nonfiction.

Part narrative documentary, part legal discovery, part timely warning, and part vindication for countless victims, The Greatest Hoax on Earth is a truly eye-opening read into the mirage of an American myth.

Source: Self-Publishing Review

About the Author

Alan C. Logan

Source: Greatest Hoax

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One thought on “The Greatest Hoax on Earth by Alan C. Logan

  1. Pingback: Catch Me If You Can by Frank Abagnale Jr. | Mark Joseph Jochim

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