Just in case you've always wondered, ""the man who broke the bank at Monte Carlo"" was one Charles Deville Welles, whose grubstake came from assorted swindles. Fielding, translator and travel writer, provides a breezy history of the tiny but high-rolling principality, since the days when the reigning Grimaldis decided that it was either gambling or destitution. Founded in 1855, the SocietÃ¨ des Baines de Mcr (Europe's casinos were generally disguised as spas) brought a dazzling transformation to the rock that was Monaco: posh hotels, gardens, pigeon hunts (the English especially went in for that sort of thing), ""Captain White"" the fun-loving Prince of Wales, a large and varied collection of scoundrels, gorgeous courtesans, and suicidal losers. Fielding doesn't bother much with the royal family--though the Rainier vs. Onassis feud is sketched in--preferring to deal with croupiers, crooks, Crowned Heads, and even on occasion the fast-disappearing Monegasques. The games played from Trente-et-Quarante to craps are explained in knowledgeable detail for those who want to try their luck. Elsewise, vicarious thrill-seekers will love it.