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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

  • On this day 125 years ago: 21 July 1891

    Before breaking the bank at Monte Carlo, Charles Deville Wells earned fame as an inventor – though notoriety might perhaps be a better word.

    Patent Steam Regulator
    Charles Deville Wells patented this speed regulator for steam engines in 1868 when he was 27 years old.

    On this day in 1891 the current edition of The Engineer – a weekly magazine – presents a snapshot of a Victorian world still deeply entrenched in the era of horse-drawn power, yet poised to move forward into an age in which machines would replace animals, and in which electricity would take over from gas for lighting and heating purposes.

    I chose the following assortment of patents from this issue of the periodical more or less at random.

    Wheels for Velocipedes; Photographic Reliefs in Rubber; Combination Surprise Spring Cannon and Shooting Gallery Toys; Producing Coffin Lace; Magic Goal Kicker; Pictures Projected Upon a Screen; Typewriting Machines; Turning Over the Leaves of Music; Utilising the Power of Streams; Hay Making Machines; Shot Firing Safety Lamp; Mineral Water Opener; Walking Stick Billiard Cue; Convertible Phaeton Front Seat; Retaining Device for Cuffs; Machine Guns; Fire Escapes; Gas Lighting; Ventilating Mackintoshes; Sockets for Electric Lamps; Calks for Horseshoes; Detaching Horses from Carriages; Curling Iron Holder for Gas Jet.

    Charles Wells himself had, in the preceding years, applied for patents on a bewildering variety of gadgets and ideas, including:

    Obtaining Photographic Birds-Eye Views; a Multiple-Wick Candle; Sunshades; a Life-Saving Torpedo; and Detecting Counterfeit Coins. 

    More recently, though, his inventive skills had been directed almost exclusively towards improving the efficiency of steam engines: his inventions could potentially have been extremely valuable in a civilisation largely reliant on steam power.  This week’s crop of patents in The Engineer reflects this trend with applications for:

    Regulating the Speed of Steam Engines; Steam Boilers; Steam Generators.

  • On this day 125 years ago: 20 July 1891
    Monte Carlo Casino
    The Casino at Monte Carlo. A view of the southern aspect.

    In the London Bankruptcy Court on this day a man named Carl Westergaard, the owner of racing stables in Ostend, appeared before a judge.  The Yorkshire Evening Post reported on the case:

    MONTE CARLO AND THE TURF

    In November, 1889, with £500 given by a friend, [Westergaard] went to Monte Carlo, and, while there he lost that money at the tables, in addition to £300 borrowed from the petitioning creditor, and which he had since been unable to repay … He attributes his failure to losses by gambling, to household and personal expenditure, and to other causes.

    Similar articles frequently appeared in the British press, and the Casino at Monte Carlo – the only place in Europe where gambling was legally allowed – attracted considerable criticism for encouraging people to risk their money, and that of other people.  There was another side to Monte Carlo, however:

    The Prince of Monaco has proved himself a most diligent investigator of the questions connected with ocean currents.  In command of his own steamer he has made the currents of the Atlantic the subject of investigation for years, and the results at which he has arrived are at least full of interest, if not also of high scientific value.   [Birmingham Daily Post]

    A week later Charles Deville Wells made his own journey to Monte Carlo and his successes there pushed stories like these on to the back pages.

  • On this day 125 years ago: 19 July 1891

    CROSSING THE NIAGARA FALLS ON A CABLE

      A man named Samuel Dixon, of Toronto, walked across the Niagara gorge over the Whirlpool Rapids to-day on a wire cable three-fourths of an inch in diameter. This is the first time that such a journey has been made from the Canadian shore.

    [Reynolds’s Newspaper, 19 July, 1891]

  • German POWs in Soviet Captivity

    I have received an enquiry about German prisoners of war in Soviet captivity during WW2.  As my book, Hitler’s Last Army, is about German prisoners in the UK I’m by no means an specialist on events in Russia.  But I was able to send a short list of information sources to the person who wrote to me.

    If you have any research questions whatsoever, I’m always very happy to help, if I can.  The same goes for individuals whose relatives were POWs and who want to carry out family history research, or simply want to know what it was like in a British POW camp.  In a few cases I have detailed descriptions of individual camps.

    german_pows

  • On this day 125 years ago: 18 July 1891

    This article from the London Evening Standard of 18 July 1891 caught my eye.

    A NOVEL INQUIRY

    (From our correspondent ) Vienna, Friday Night. The question of trailing dresses, treated recently in letters to The Standard, has also engaged the attention of the Supreme Sanitary Board of Vienna. All the District Police Commissioners were the other day officially asked their opinion as to whether dresses sweeping in the mud are injurious to the public health; and whether, if forbidden, the prohibition could be enforced. The replies were handed in to-day, and differ widely as to the possibility of carrying out any such prohibition. One official suggests the imposition of a special tax on trailing dresses, but the inventor of this happy idea admits that the impost would be rather difficult of collection.