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Biography

Robin Quinn PhotoRobin Quinn is an author and radio producer based in South-East England. His new book, The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo explores the life of Charles Deville Wells, fraudster and gambler, and spans the second half of the nineteenth century and the early twentieth century. Published 2016 by The History Press Ltd.

THE MAN WHO BROKE THE BANK AT MONTE CARLO

The incredible true story of Charles Deville Wells, gambler and fraudster extraordinaire.

Charles Wells has two loves in his life: a beautiful, headstrong, French mistress, Jeannette, and his sumptuous yacht, the Palais Royal. At the risk of losing them both, Wells stakes everything he owns at the roulette tables in Monte Carlo’s world-famous Casino – and in the space of a few days he breaks the bank, not once but ten times, winning the equivalent of millions in today’s money.

Is he phenomenally lucky? Has he really invented an “infallible” gambling system, as he claims? Or is he just an exceptionally clever fraudster?

Based on painstaking research on both sides of the Channel and beyond, this biography reveals the incredible true story of the man who broke the bank at Monte Carlo – an individual who went on to become Europe’s most wanted criminal, hunted by British and French police, and known in the press as “Monte Carlo Wells – the man with 36 aliases”.

Pre-order now: Amazon, Waterstones, WHSmiths, iTunes.
Read excerpts on Google Books.

HITLER'S LAST ARMY

After the Second World War 400,000 German servicemen were imprisoned on British soil – some remaining until 1948. These defeated men in their tattered uniforms were, in every sense, Hitler's Last Army.

Reviews of Hitler's Last Army

“Probably the best book on the subject in the last 20 years”
[recollectionsofwwii.blogspot.co.uk]

“I recommend this book as a must to read.”
[★★★★★ Amazon review by “a German ex-POW”]

“Well written, interesting, informative, and heart-warming in equal measure … I would recommend this even to those not especially interested in WW2, as a fascinating slice of Anglo-German social history of 70 years ago. Buy it."
[★★★★★ Amazon review by J.B.]

Blog: All Posts

  • The Beatles Tune In

    I’ve just finished what I can safely say is one of the most enjoyable and informative books I’ve ever read.  It’s not a particularly new work – in fact it came out in 2013.  I cannot recall another book which compares with its fantastic wealth of information and detail.  The Beatles: All These Years: Vol 1 – Tune In is a long book at about 800 pages; and Volume 1 only takes us as far as the beginning of 1963.  The rest of the story will occupy two further volumes and is intended to complete the entire story of the Beatles.

    Fo me simply to rave about the vast amount of info between this book’s covers is to do the work an injustice .  The writer, Beatles expert Mark Lewisohn, has accurately captured the spirit of the era (the 1950s and early 60s – from when John and Paul first met to the earliest chart successes of The Beatles as a group).  Reading Lewisohn’s work not only took me back to an era I just about remember – he also evokes the unique “feel” of post-war Liverpool, the stamping-ground of John, Paul, George and Ringo.

    The author scotches several myths: for example, how Parlophone’s George Martin came to record the Beatles when every other label had turned them down; and the truth behind the sacking of Pete Best.  At last, these stories begin to make sense, thanks to the writer’s extensive investigations – (which I imagine must have taken years).

    https://www.amazon.co.uk/d/Books/Beatles-All-These-Years-Tune/0316729604

     

  • A Mine of Information

    I’ve just discovered the website of Stephen Liddell, who is – like me – a writer with a strong interest in history.  He also organises guided tours in many parts of the country under the banner of ‘Ye Olde England Tours’.  His URL is: www.stephenliddell.co.uk and I promise you will find many topics of interest there.

    His blog is a veritable mine of information, with articles on the mystery of King Arthur’s birthplace; the Battle of the Somme; the Knights Templar; not to mention a welcome review of my book, The Man who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo!

  • Fake News or Fact?
    The "Salle Mauresque" (Moorish Room, so-called because of the style of decoration used). In this room Charles Deville Wells broke the bank several times.
    One of the gaming halls at the Monte Carlo casino.

    On 18 August 1913, players at the casino in Monte Carlo were astonished when the ball landed on black no fewer than 26 times in succession.  Believing that this run could not last, many punters had convinced themselves that red must come up next.  They lost their money.  Others reasoned that as black had been lucky so many times it would continue that way.  They, too, lost when the series finally ended.

    The story appears on numerous websites, and for many years it has been included in books on gambling and the laws of chance.  But is it true?

    I was determined to find out more, and to discover who had been the winners and losers.  So I searched a number of sources including the Times Digital Archive, The British Newspaper Archive and Google Books.  Surprisingly, I was unable to find any contemporary account of this event from August 1913 – or indeed any mention of it whatsoever until many years after.  Having trawled through numerous articles and books I located what I believe to be the first published account of it – in a book published as late as 1959.  This work is entitled ‘How to Take a Chance – a light hearted introduction to the laws of probability’ and was written by Darrell Huff.  (Note the phrase ‘light hearted’).  The author of this volume presumably invented the story just by way of example and now it appears in reputable publications as though it were an established fact.

    But if it had really taken place, what would have happened if a gambler had bet on black starting with a stake of £1, and then left their winnings to accumulate on the same colour for 26 spins of the wheel?  A quick calculation shows that in theory they would have finished up with over £50 million!  This would have been something of an inconvenience to the casino, to put it mildly.  To prevent any player from winning sums of this magnitude, the casino’s rules at that time limited the maximum stake to about £250, a measure which would have reduced the total win to about £9,000 – still a good return on an initial investment of £1 !

    By the way – if you know of any source for this tale which pre-dates Darrell Huff’s 1959 book, I’d be delighted to hear all about it.  info@robin-quinn.co.uk

     

  • Maps as research tools

    In 1910 the British government decided to carry out a detailed survey and valuation of every building in the country.  It was an enormous task and involved hundreds of surveyors up and down the land.  The records of the survey can be inspected at the National Archives, which means that they are available to researchers, historians and anyone wishing to find out more about the places where their ancestors lived more than a century ago.

    I used these records to find out more about the large business premises occupied by Charles Wells (the man who broke the bank)  at 152-156 Great Portland Street, London.

    Each building or plot of land was assigned a reference number, and these were marked on a large-scale map. It is necessary to find the district and reference number before locating the detailed survey of any individual property.
    Each building or plot of land was assigned a reference number, and these were marked on a large-scale map. It is necessary to consult these maps first in order to find the district and reference number, before locating the detailed survey of any individual property.  (Crown copyright).

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    The individual entries contain written information about occupiers of buildings; value; rent paid and many other details of interest to historians. In some cases, such as this one, the surveyor has included a sketch plan of the building. Since it was possible to establish that the building was largely unchanged since Wells occupied it twenty years earlier, this helped me to put together a written description of the business premises and living accommodation he occupied in the 1890s.
    The individual entries contain written information about occupiers of buildings; value; rent paid and many other details of interest to historians. In some cases, such as this one, the surveyor has included a sketch plan of the building. Since it was possible to establish that the building was largely unchanged since Wells had occupied it twenty years earlier, in the 1890s, this helped me to put together an accurate written description of the business premises and living accommodation when he was based there. (Crown copyright)

     

    The building in which Charles Wells had his offices and workshops had been converted into a car showroom by about 1912. It was subsequently demolished. Yalding house (pictured) stands on the site of Wells' HQ and adjoining properties. (McAleer & Rushe)
    The building in which Charles Wells had his offices and workshops had been converted into a car showroom by about 1912. It was subsequently demolished. Yalding house (pictured) was built on the site of Wells’ HQ and adjoining properties. For many years Yalding House was occupied by the BBC, and the studios of Radio 1 were there between 1996 and 2012.  (McAleer & Rushe)

     

  • The Man who Broke the Bank lived here
    This property in High Road, Broxbourne, was the Wells family home when Charles Deville Wells was born in 1841. As most children were born at home this was almost certainly his birthplace.
    This property in High Road, Broxbourne, was the Wells family home when Charles Deville Wells was born in 1841. As most children were born at home in that era, this house was almost certainly his birthplace.

    Charles Deville Wells, later to achieve fame as ‘the Man who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo’, was born in Broxbourne, Hertfordshire in 1841.  He was baptised by the Rev. Francis Thackeray, the uncle of author William Makepeace Thackeray.  Wells’ own father was also a literary man – the poet Charles Jeremiah Wellls.