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
- People say the nicest things … June 28, 2016
Hitler’s Last Army – which came out in 2015 – now has seven five-star reviews on Amazon. My thanks to those who have made such kind and positive comments, and I’m delighted that they have found the book interesting.
I was especially grateful to reader J. Barry, who says:
Fully agree with all the glowing reviews, and note too the ex POW reviewers find that it does justice to their own experience. Like the others, I couldn’t put this down either.
It’s well written, interesting, informative, and heart-warming in equal measure since the author interweaves personal experience with the wider story of government policy. As a WW2 obsessive, I’m always on the lookout for books that give us a different angle, or about subjects not well covered previously. This fitted the bill perfectly. The author does not gloss over the less creditable aspects of the mens’ treatment in British hands but I bet many others had a smile on their face like I did by the time I finished it, because you like the people and their stories. 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.
When writing the book I had taken particular trouble to locate first-hand witness accounts from former prisoners. I carried out a number of face-to-face interviews and also used memoirs from the Imperial War Museum and other sources. My aim was to set these against the historical background of the time. It wasn’t always easy, but – if J. Barry’s review is anything to go by – it seems to have worked!
- How did you think of that? June 28, 2016
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 June 27, 2016
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! June 27, 2016
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 firstname.lastname@example.org )
- The Argus (Brighton) June 22, 2016
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.