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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”.

Order now: Amazon, Waterstones, WHSmiths, iTunes.
Read excerpts on Google Books.


Now available as an audio book on CDs
And as an audio download

audiobook

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

  • Newstalk FM (Ireland)

    News of the book is getting around now!  Earlier this afternoon I spent an enjoyable 15 minutes being interviewed by Sean Moncrieff of Newstalk FM.  He was particularly keen to hear about one of Charles Deville Wells’ victims — a young Irish aristocrat, the Hon. William Cosby Trench, of Castle Oliver, Co. Limerick.

    Trench was persuaded by Wells to invest in an invention which was supposed to economise on coal in steam engines.  Trench invested the equivalent of £1 million, and never received a penny of it back.  A judge told him that he was still a young man and it would be best if he were to grow wiser as well as older.  He seems to have followed this advice and later in life he became High Sheriff of County Limerick.

  • The value of money

    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 … !

    It was great to see coverage of The Man who Broke the Bank in Friday’s Daily Mail.  My thanks to journalist David Leafe for his article.

    man who broke bank monte carlo charles deville wells gambling room salon robin quinn roulette
    One of the gambling halls at the Monte Carlo Casino
  • Keeping track of a bank-breaker
    Danger! Author at work. Robin Quinn man who broke bank monte carlo charles deville wells wall chart
    Danger! Author at work.

    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

    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