Book Review: The Greatest Hoax on Earth: Catching Truth While We Can – Alan C. Logan

When I saw this was well over 400 hundred pages, I was expecting it to be a tough book to read. I hadn’t seen the film Catch Me if You Can, though I had heard of it. It actually wasn’t difficult to get through the book. It tells the story of Frank W. Abagnale, but having since watched the film, I can confirm it’s a vastly different story from the one he and those involved in making the film would have you believe.

Backed up by links, quotes from those in the know and with the added narrative told by Paula Parks, it’s pretty likely that Frank’s claims are mostly fabricated. If you’re wondering who Paula Parks is, she met Frank when she worked as a flight attendant and to cut a long story (you’ll have to read the book for the full story) he worked his way into her family, played on their trust, then stole from them. They weren’t a corporation; they were just an average family who took him at his word and paid the price.

As Logan uses this book to debunk most of the claims made by Abagnale, it poses the question why nobody ever questioned them. They are ludicrous when you examine them individually, but it seems nobody did, at least not at first.

He managed to air his claims about working as an airline pilot, a doctor and so much more, on a chat show, seemingly without a research team carrying out any fact checking. This opened the floodgates and with each public stage given to him, his audience took it as gospel that he must have done all these things, perhaps because everyone just assumed that someone, somewhere must have verified what he was saying.

The Greatest Hoax on Earth delves into some of the doubters who did try to expose Abagnale, and despite several published articles showing him to be a fraud, enough people continued to believe him, for Abagnale to continue earning money from public appearances. I’m sure there’s a lot of psychology involved here. By the time anyone spoke out publicly, the story was already rooted in the minds of the public and there was little that could have changed their mind en masse.

It’s worth a read, and serves as a warning not to believe everything you see, hear or read (without concrete evidence and expertise) which is particularly important today, with all the misinformation on the internet.

The book is on Amazon.

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