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
- Zero hour! January 5, 2015
For many of us this is our first day back at work after the Christmas and/or New Year break. Not necessarily an exciting prospect, fo some, no doubt. But I’ve been looking forward to it for some time as my first book, Hitler’s Last Army is released today.
The book focuses on the human story of the German prisoners of war who were held in Britain during and after WW2: I interviewed a number of former German soldiers and supplemented this evidence with material from the Imperial War Museum. http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections-research
As a backdrop to this eye-witness testimony, I’ve referred also to the military, political and economic decisions which impacted on the lives of the POWs.
I think you’ll find the personal testimony of these men both fascinating and at times very moving … but please do let me know what you think of the book, as I’d love to have your views, comments and suggestions!
The book is aimed at general readers – not just those with a specialised interest in the war. But I suspect that some will have have a particular motive to read about the POWs – either because they were themselves a prisoner, or because a relative was. I’d be glad to hear your story (or that of your ancestor) so please get in touch. If you have any questions about German POWs that aren’t covered in the book, I may be able to help, or at least point you in the direction of some useful sources of information. email@example.com
- Research trip to France January 2, 2015
Spent several days in France last September researching my biography of Charles Wells, (The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo). We took in several cities, including Marseille, where Charles Wells lived for some years before becoming famous for his Monte Carlo exploits. He lived with his parents at the house pictured here. More from the photo album in future posts!
- Dornier 17 – ‘The Old Plane and the Sea’ December 27, 2014
I enjoyed watching the repeat of The Old Plane and the Sea on BBC-TV over the Christmas period, having missed it when first shown. This was a documentary about the crashed Dornier 17 bomber recovered from the sea-bed in the English Channel in June 2013. http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer
It was intriguing to see history come together, as shots of the recovery were followed by interviews with the daughter and grandson of one of the crew members, bomb-aimer Hermann Ritzel. Referring back to my earlier post about locating POW ancestors, the crash of the aircraft in August 1940 is recorded in The Battle of Britain Then and Now, (After the Battle Publications). The entry, doubtless sourced from records of the time, states that crew member Huhn was killed; Reinhard and Ritzel were missing; and “Essmert” was taken prisoner [the actual spelling was Effmert]. Ritzel was later found and was also taken prisoner. Details such as these could be helpful to anyone researching their ancestor. I noticed, in particular, that Ritzel’s daughter said he had never talked with her about his wartime experiences. This can be typical of former members of the German armed forces, and makes it especially difficult to trace that person’s history.
- Christmas in a British POW camp for Germans December 21, 2014
In December 1944, an eighteen-year-old German soldier, captured in Normandy earlier that year, spent Christmas in a British prisoner of war camp. Along with his fellow POWs he was desperately homesick and missed his family. In his diary he wrote:
CHRISTMAS 1944 – BEHIND BARBED WIRE
On 24 December 1944 we celebrated German Christmas, the festival of joy, behind barbed wire. Everyone looked forward to the festival and the preparations were in full swing. We had the most beautiful Christmas tree in the camp and we had decorated our hut with pictures and fir-twigs. When the Holy Eve arrived the preparations were complete. Outside on the camp square the Christmas tree lights were lit, the choir sang carols and the camp leader spoke some appropriate words. Then we all went into the huts, each to celebrate the Christmas feast.
Assembled under the glow of the Christmas tree we sang the most beautiful songs about Christmas and about home. One of the comrades spoke about home and about our fate, and brought us so near to home that all of us had tears in our eyes, and thus many went out silently into the holy night. At every bedside the candles burned and every one of us dreamed of home, and in our thoughts we were at home in the midst of our loved ones.
When the Commandant went around the huts to pick out the three best ones, ours got the second prize out of 25 huts. He was very pleased with the cleanliness and tidiness of the huts with their Christmas decorations. We had shown him a real German Christmas.
- Tracing a German POW Ancestor December 20, 2014
A very common difficulty is caused by the fact that lists of POWs at various camps in Britain were not generally retained in the country after the war. However, one resource that’s well worth looking at – if only for background information on the camps – is the excellent series of After the Battle magazines and books: www.afterthebattle.com
If you go to the above website, click on the tab “Index of Issues” and you’ll discover a downloadable, searchable index of every After the Battle issue (dating from the early 1970s). If you’re very lucky you just might find your ancestor mentioned by name! For example, Hans Teske is to be found in Edition 17, page 53. Back numbers of past issues are available through the website. (Teske was, officially, Britain’s last POW of WW2, since a clerical error prevented him being discharged from prisoner status after the war and, technically, he was therefore still a prisoner until his death in the year 2000.) While you would be very lucky to find the very person you’re searching for in this way, remember that it’s a bit like the lottery … you might just win! Search under the name of a camp where your ancestor was detained and you have a good chance of finding some details of the camp itself at least .
If your ancestor was in the Luftwaffe you should look at the excellent After the Battle volumes: The Blitz Then and Now (3 volumes), and The Battle of Britain Then and Now. These record virtually all German aircrew who were taken prisoner, wounded or killed during these air campaigns: they can also be purchased from the website, and are available in some libraries.
In the future I’ll be adding more info about tracing German POW ancestors, so do try again soon if you don’t see what you are looking for today.