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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

  • How did you think of that?
    monte carlo casino exterior
    The casino at Monte Carlo. One night in 1891 Charles Wells crossed the square (right foreground) to his hotel, staggering under the weight of a million francs in banknotes and slept with them under his pillow.

    People often ask how I got the idea for this book.  A few years ago I was researching some completely unrelated topic in an old newspaper from the 1920s. I spotted a paragraph which said something like ‘Man who broke bank at Monte Carlo dies in poverty.’ It grabbed my attention because I knew there had been an old song about the man who broke the bank, but I’d never had the faintest idea that he was a real person till that moment. And then I wondered what could possibly have happened for him to finish up in poverty.

    I discovered that Charles Deville Wells broke the bank in 1891 and won very large sums of money at roulette and at a card game, trente-et-quarante. It was pretty obvious from the reports that he really had broken the bank, but also that he was a fraudster. That made me wonder how he’d done it. The details seemed very sketchy, and newspaper articles about him often contradicted one another.

    When I told my editor at The History Press that there had never been a previous biography of Charles Wells, he could hardly believe it — and I felt the same. So we knew that this would be a first.

    Now, in one way that’s very good news for an author, as there’s no direct competition. But on the other hand, it meant that I’d have to reconstruct Wells’ life from scratch. I started with a timeline. And I remember the first version of it was a half sheet of A4 paper with about seven entries, beginning with his birth and ending with his death – and even the details of those events weren’t known for certain. I wasn’t sure how long it would take to find the whole story, or whether it would be possible to fill in all the gaps. But the timeline finished up as a hefty document nearly 200 pages long, with over 700 separate entries representing just about every known fact about Charles Deville Wells. And then it was a matter of putting it all in order – making sense of all the material. And sorting out all the discrepancies and contradictions in the basic material. That took months.

    (To be continued)

     

  • German Prisoners of War in the United Kingdom

    For more info on German prisoners of war in the United Kingdom, see the Wikipedia article that I have contributed to: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_prisoners_of_war_in_the_United_Kingdom

    Much of the information appears in my book, Hitler’s Last Army, (though not necessarily in exactly the same format).  Like all Wikipedia articles the above is subject to further editing and revision by contributors.  In setting out the basics, I’ve provided a framework for future additions and amendments.

  • The Man who broke the Bank … on Wikipedia!

    You’ll find more info about Charles Deville Wells, The Man who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo, on Wikipedia here:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Wells_(gambler)

    (I was a contributor to the article.  If you have any questions on the topic that are not answered elsewhere, you are very welcome to contact me at info@robin-quinn.co.uk )

  • The Argus (Brighton)

    My article on Charles Deville Wells – The Man who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo – was published in The Argus (Brighton) on 11 June.  http://www.theargus.co.uk/

    Here are a couple of extracts from the piece:

    It was in July 1891 that Wells went to the casino at Monte Carlo – the only place in Europe where gambling was legally permitted at the time.  He arrived at mid-day and started to gamble at the roulette table.  And in the course of eleven hours he broke the bank – not just once but several times in a row.  And then, on subsequent days, he did exactly the same again.  In less than a week he had won £40,000, worth £4 million in today’s terms.

    Even now, 125 years later, no-one is quite sure how he achieved this seemingly-impossible feat.  Some claim that, as an engineer, he could have discovered a slight mechanical imperfection in one of the roulette wheels, enabling him to predict which numbers to bet on.  Other observers speculate that, as a fraudster, he had probably devised a way to swindle the casino. Wells himself dismissed these accusations, claiming that he had invented an infallible system of gambling which involved watching for recurring sequences of numbers before placing his bets.  To me, though, none of these explanations seemed convincing, and I set out to solve the mystery.  After studying all the available evidence, I was finally able to offer a plausible explanation based on the known facts, and I’ve set out my findings in a new book, The Man who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo.

    Legend has it that, after his Monte Carlo triumph, Wells and his French mistress were regular guests at the London and Paris Hotel in Newhaven, stopping there en route between Britain and France.  They were in the habit of holding riotous parties which went on until the early hours of the morning and kept the other visitors awake.  When the hotel management asked Wells to take his custom elsewhere, he rented a nearby house in Fort Road … where the festivities continued uninterrupted.

    DSC02610
    The house in Fort Road, Newhaven, where Charles Deville Wells is reputed to have lived after his Monte Carlo win.
  • Further investigations …

    Most of the research for The Man who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo took place in the summer of 2014, when I visited Paris, Marseille, Nice and Monte Carlo to follow in the footsteps of the man himself – Charles Deville Wells.  I followed up almost a year later with a second trip, this time to Le Havre, where Wells arrived in 1892 on his huge yacht, the Palais Royal.

    It was while he was here, in company with his beautiful French mistress, that he was arrested by French police – a story that’s related in full within the pages of the book.

    Today the Quai de la Seine is one of the smaller docks and appears to be virtually unused – or perhaps it was just a quiet day when I visited.  The larger vessels using the port now use the more extensive facilities elsewhere, but this was probably a place of some considerable importance in the 1890s when Wells was here.  The Palais Royal, almost 300 feet long, was one of the largest pleasure craft in the world at that time, and would have occupied half the length of the basin.

    While on the same trip I spotted a boat used for river cruises which was just slightly larger than the Palais Royal.  It gives some impression of the scale of Wells’ yacht.

     

    River cruiser
    At about 100 metres in length, this present day river cruiser is roughly the same length as Palais Royal, giving at least some impression of the size of Charles Wells’ yacht
    Le Havre dock Palais Royal
    Author Robin Quinn points out the dock at Le Havre where Charles Deville Wells moored his yacht, Palais Royal
    Charles Wells' yacht, Palais Royal
    Charles Wells’ yacht, Palais Royal (formerly the cargo ship Tycho Brahe).