Robin 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”.
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”
“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 value of money August 10, 2016
Last week’s Daily Mail article, based on my book, The Man who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo, appeared under the heading,
REVEALED: THE EXTRAORDINARY STORY BEHIND THE BRITON WHO BROKE THE BANK AT MONTE CARLO WITH HIS RELENTLESS CASINO WINNING STREAK.
It continues by saying that with an initial stake of £4,000 he won £40,000 — equivalent to £4 million in today’s money. A reader in Harrogate questioned this, saying: “So he actually only won £40,000. Another misleading DM headline!!!”
It looks as if a brief explanation might be called for here! Where sums of money are mentioned in the book, I give the actual sum (such as £40,000) followed by the same sum with an extra two zeros (in this case £4,000,000). This gives a rough modern-day equivalent based on the Retail Price Index, which reflects changes in the costs of everyday goods over time.
But it is not quite as simple as that! While a basket of shopping has only gone up about 100 times, wages and salaries are about 440 times what they were in 1891. On this scale, Wells’ winnings would be closer to £17.5 million. And when Wells returned to London with his winnings, he could have chosen to invest the money in property. With a typical house selling in those days for £300, he might have purchased about 130 properties. Assuming an average house price today of around £280,000, to buy the same estate would now need over £36 million.
So, to answer the Harrogate reader’s question, it can’t be said that the Daily Mail has exaggerated Wells’ winnings: in fact, depending which formula you use, the rule of “Victorian value times 100” generally errs on the low side.
The relative value of various sums of money over time is explained better, and in more depth than I can achieve here, at measuringworth.com.
- Word is getting around … ! August 8, 2016
- Keeping track of a bank-breaker August 6, 2016
I found it a little difficult to keep track of Charles Wells’ activities, as so much happened between his arrival in Britain from France in about 1883, and the period just after his epic bank-breaking adventures. Just over a year ago, when I was making the transition from the research phase to actually writing the book, I made the wall chart (pictured). It drew a number of threads together, and made it much easier to see at a glance what was happening to Charles Wells, and the other important people in his story.
In addition I compiled an overall timeline covering his whole life. It started off as an A4 sheet of paper with a few lines on it, and ended up as a file with over 200 pages and around 700 separate entries. From this the first draft of the biography of Charles Wells was put together.
- Interview on 105 Uckfield FM August 3, 2016
I very much enjoyed being interviewed yesterday by Lynn Briggs, drivetime presenter at 105 Uckfield FM.
We talked about Charles Wells – his inventions, his amazing successes at Monte Carlo, and his many brushes with the law over the years. Lynn played a brief snippet of Charles Coborn performing The Man who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo, which probably jogged a few memories in and around Uckfield!
My sincere thanks to Lynn and her colleagues for this opportunity for people to hear about the book, (which is now on sale, by the way!)
The interview is now available to play on demand on the home-page of Uckfield FM: www.uckfieldfm.co.uk
- On this day 125 years ago: 3 August 1891 August 3, 2016
Monday, 3 August, was a bank holiday — one of the country’s few days off work, a rare day of rest for the majority of people. Britain woke from its weekend slumber — and then went back to sleep again for a bit longer.
It was a day for trips to the seaside, to the countryside, to circuses, fairs, and other attractions. In the London area over 50,000 visited the Crystal Palace, while an estimated 80,000 made their way to Hampstead Heath for the fair.
That day’s newspapers carried fresh reports of Wells and his incredible gambling feats at Monte Carlo — a good-luck story that resonated perfectly with the happy holiday atmosphere.
REMARKABLE WINNINGS (Reuter’s Telegram)
Mr. Wells, who won within a few days £20,000 at the table here, won a further sum of £6,000 yesterday. Extraordinary luck again favoured him today, for he won no less than £14,000 at trente-et-quarante. The table was surrounded by a large crowd, and intense excitement prevailed, such persistent good fortune having never been witnessed before. Mr. Wells, whose winnings commence to have an effect on the bank, keeps two secretaries to assist him in his transactions.
Charles Deville Wells was already on his way to becoming a legend. Yet in many ways his unbelievable story was only just beginning …[This ends my day-by-day account of the events of 125 years ago. But there will be more daily coverage of “future” events in the Charles Deville Wells timeline. I’ll be posting more information about his adventures over the days, weeks and months to come. Watch this space!]