Tag Archives: audiobook review

Womanizer

You all saw the cinematic opus Catch Me If You Can, right?  Leonardo DiCaprio portrays a cheeky teenage con artist, charming his way through a number of amusing capers all while trying to impress an increasingly depressed Christopher Walken, who is likely suffering from a severe lack of cowbell.  I know you saw it.  It was super fun.  Also, it’s on TNT/TBS/USA all the time, so it’s hard to miss.  And why would you?  It’s DELIGHTFUL.  Here I was thinking that Steven Spielberg had just made a movie about Frank Abagnale, Jr., but thanks to my habit of browsing obsessively at the library I now know that the movie is based on a semi-autobiographical novel of the same name from 1980 that I have just finished listening to.  I was all excited that I was finally getting the true story, and then Wikipedia told me that the whole thing is totally ghostwritten and based on four interviews with Frank.  This must be true since the internets never lie and also because there is a statement on Frank’s website about how the writer and editor made it more exciting by not recounting things exactly.  I wanted to give you this information up front so that you won’t be disappointed about the possible lack of truthiness, too.  The book is still fun, but I would still like to know what ACTUALLY HAPPENED.  Perhaps I should go see the stage show for yet another interpretation.  The good thing about the ghostwriter tidbit is that I can now blame him for the not-infrequent use of words like “broads” instead of Frank, who I choose to find charming instead of offensive, despite several instances of asshattery.  Also, this was written in 1980, and I don’t know that political correctness was a thing then.  I can’t provide good intel on the subject since I wasn’t around in 1980, but perhaps those of you who were can discuss it in the comments.

The main lesson of Catch Me If You Can is that a teenage boy will do just about anything to get a little tail.  Preferably a lot of tail, but any amount of tail will do.  Frank Abagnale, Jr. discovered girls around the age of 16, and his libido led him straight into a life of crime.  You see, he needed money so that he could show the ladies a good time so that they would in turn show him a good time, and the easiest way to obtain the funds for everyone’s good time turned out to be credit card fraud.  Which his dad was on the hook for.  And paid off.  And forgave him for.  This is how Frank learned that crime totally pays.  Soon he figured out how check fraud worked, too, and he was on his merry way to stealing $2.5 million while masquerading as a pilot, a doctor, a lawyer, a professor, and possibly one or two more professions that I’m forgetting.  His dedication to his craft is impressive.  I doubt that many high school dropouts would figure out how the banking system of this country works just so that they could take a girl or thirty somewhere nice.  He makes very good use of his local library in whatever city he’s in (a quality I appreciate in a man), learning things like what all the little numbers on the bottom of your checks mean or perusing medical journals so that his fake pediatrician credentials will hold water just a little longer.  He’s also an excellent con artist, which helps more than anything.  He has confidence in spades, and it gets him out of more than one tight spot.

Unfortunately for Frank, he’s up against a determined FBI agent who is working with law enforcement worldwide to catch him, and the noose closes one day while he’s hiding out in France after deciding to give up his life of crime.  It seems that all of the rumors that we’ve all heard about French prisons are true.  Frank is incarcerated naked in a dark cell so small that he cannot stand up in it.  It is furnished only with a bucket.  His extradition to Sweden is the best thing that could have happened to him.

Frank really hit the genetic jackpot by looking much older than his 16 years.  If he was still a scrawny kid solidly in the awkward phase, he couldn’t have passed himself off as a 26 year old pilot (or doctor, or professor…), and the whole thing would have fallen apart before it ever began.  I also don’t think that the stewardesses would have given him a second look, and the girls were a major draw for choosing this particular profession.  It didn’t hurt that pilots could cash checks all over the country, taking his check scam to a whole new level.  It was a perfect storm of fraudulent goodness that worked out really well for him until the whole naked-in-French-prison scenario.  An excellent read.  Or listen.  Just don’t be fooled into thinking that you’re going to actually know what happened.  Whatever, Frank.  I know that THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE.

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It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll

If you know me, you have seen me in my Rolling Stones shirt.  I love it.  It’s super soft, and so I wear it all the time.  I will weep bitter tears when it falls apart and has to be thrown away.  I keep waiting for Target to bring it back so that I can buy a backup or three, but so far they have been uncooperative.  The regularity with which I wear my favorite shirt gives a false impression of my devotion to this band, though.  Don’t get me wrong – I love the Stones.  I was raised right.  However, I am not so enamored that I shell out for the concert tickets, and I’m not familiar with their deeper cuts.  Maybe one day.  For now, I’m satisfied with ‘Mother’s Little Helper’ and ‘Paint It, Black.’

So, when I saw that Keith Richards, guitarist extraordinaire, had written his memoir, I was interested, but I didn’t drop everything to rush to the bookstore to pick it up.  I assumed I’d get around to it one day, either from the library or once it came out in paperback.  It seemed like it would be the perfect beach book, and I was in no hurry.  And then I found out that Johnny Depp read the audio book of Life (Hachette Audio 2010), and I decided to find this sooner rather than later.  I’m pretty sure that Johnny Depp could read a debate about Beta players vs. VCRs and keep me riveted. He’s that good when he wants to be.  (He can also be dull.  Have you tried to listen to his commentary on Pirates 1? Snoozefest.)  He doesn’t disappoint in this little favor he did for his buddy Keef.  His performance of the opening chapter is my favorite part of the entire audiobook.  It involves Keith, Ronnie Wood, and other members of their entourage getting arrested in Fordyce, AR, for a number of trumped up charges that began with them exiting a parking lot in a manner that did not sit well with the local authorities.  The story includes the disposal of various illegal substances in a variety of ways, a drunken judge called into court late at night, and a Free Keith protest outside the courthouse while the BBC was on the phone.  Johnny does a masterful job of recounting it, complete with the Captain Jack voice for Keith’s bits and a spot-on Southern accent for the cops.

After this rollicking intro, the story goes back to Keith’s childhood and moves forward chronologically-ish from there, although there is a good bit of wandering off-topic along the way.  About four chapters in, the narrator changes, and Joe Hurley – also hand-picked by Keith for this project – picks up.  I’m not going to lie, the change was jarring to me.  I had gotten so used to Johnny’s deadpan delivery that Joe’s enthusiastic reading threw me at first.  Honestly, I thought that his British accent was put on when he started, so I googled him to see where he was really from, and it turns out that he’s a Londoner, so I suppose it’s the real deal.  I didn’t find his voice as easy to listen to as Johnny’s, so it took me longer to get through his section of the book.  Also, while the subject matter was usually interesting, occasionally there would be a detailed discussion of something like open tuning that went on for quite some time.  This is probably of interest to other guitar players, but I found it a bit dull.  Sadly, there is no skimming in audiobooks, so I now know more about it than I ever thought I would.  I also learned a good bit about drugs – various nicknames, how one takes them, good stuff vs. bad, how to work the system, balancing your intake of uppers and downers to stay away for days at a time, and the absolute hell of quitting cold turkey.  Seriously, I don’t know how Keith did that multiple times.  I don’t think I’d be able to go through it again once I knew what was coming.

While I appreciated the tips on knife fighting, the best parts of the book by far are about the formation of the band and its heyday.  I loved learning about how the songs were written, who they were about, and the evolution of the music.  I enjoy knowing that they cut ‘Satisfaction’ thinking that it was just going to be a demo, and then they heard it on the radio while they were driving to their next gig.  Once the band is established and they fall to  infighting, the story isn’t as interesting to me.  I’d like to hear Mick Jagger’s take on some of what happened.  Or, even better, Charlie Watts’ impressions of what was going on between Mick and Keith.  Perhaps one day they’ll write their memoirs, too, and I can hear all sides of the story.  I get the feeling that Charlie’s take would be the most objective of the three.  He seems to be the only one who didn’t join in the weird girlfriend merry-go-round that the rest of the band participated in.  He’s also looking very dapper these days, while Keith and Mick look like they died years ago and someone forgot to tell them.  Considering that Keef spent 10 years topping a list of rock stars most likely to die, it’s pretty impressive that he’s still alive and kicking, especially after reading up (or listening to, I suppose) on all of the shenanigans he’s engaged in over the years.  He’s survived wartime London bombings, various car accidents, cohabitation with a paranoid junkie girlfriend, setting fire to the Playboy mansion, a cracked skull, and much more.

The book is a fun ride.  I’d always just thought of Keith as the Stones guitarist with an ever-present cigarette, and it was fun to learn so much more about him – his life, his family, his library.  He’s passionate about his music, a doting father, and a stalwart friend.  It may be time for me to investigate some of those deeper cuts I’ve been ignoring for years in case I tire of ‘Sympathy for the Devil’ and ‘Honky Tonk Women’ before my Stones kick ends.