That’s what Nigel Jones, book reviewer for Devonshire magazine, writes in the latest edition which is out now.
The man who broke the bank, Charles Deville Wells, lived at an address in Walker Terrace, Plymouth, from about 1883 to about 1887. From here he registered a number of patents on his inventions, which included multiple-wick candles, advertising by means of balloons, electric baths, and a “combined fire extinguishing grenade and chandelier”! Some years later, he returned in his sumptuous yacht, Palais Royal, and it was here that the finishing touches to the vessel were carried out by local shipwrights.
Here’s an extract from Nigel’s review:
You couldn’t really make up this story. It’s actual real life stuff that’s both unbelievable, extraordinary and true. It’s an epic story regarding the battle man faces to pay the bills (silver spoons excluded here). Charles Deville Wells takes this battle to extraordinary levels in terms of perseverance, innovation and also trickery and fraud. Initially an engineer, Wells takes to developing products which he patents and then seeks investors to reap the harvest, of which there’s usually none. Later Wells indeed does break the bank at Monte Carlo, making unheard of amounts of money, then loses it on incredible projects and continues to evade the law and investors. At one point, he bases his operation in Plymouth, so great local references also.
The best book I’ve read all year, the level of research that’s gone into this excellent book by Robin Quinn is staggering. A thoroughly entertaining, interesting read that’s highly recommended.
P.S. Christmas is coming! (How could we fail to notice!) If someone you know likes Victorian crime books, buy them a copy of The Man who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo. If they enjoy it as much as reviewer Nigel Jones evidently did, they should be in for a very happy Christmas!