The Greatest Hoax on Earth:
Catching Truth, While We Can
Alan C. Logan
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.