Interviewing Tony Kent about No Way To Die

Every time I read a fellow blogger’s review of a Tony Kent book they are all so positive that I know I’m really missing out as I haven’t had chance to read him for myself yet. As a result I decided it was time to ask Tony to stay in with me and tell me about his latest book himself. I’m thrilled he agreed to come along.

Staying in with Tony Kent

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag Tony and thank you for agreeing to stay in with me.

No, thank you. Because while you’re staying in, for me this is OUT! Which I realise is quite pathetic, but our three-year old son Joseph is at that ‘look at me all night, I’m hilarious stage’. Which is nowhere near as entertaining as he thinks it is. So usually, I’m hiding upstairs in my office, writing or working on legal papers. Which makes THIS a big night! Now where are those cocktails!?!

We’ll get to the cocktails later, but before then tell me, which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it?

I’ve chosen to bring along my latest thriller, No Way To Die, which is coming out in paperback next week; much cheaper than the hardback was so I can just about afford to bring a copy for us both!

I love a paperback! So tell me a bit more about No Way To Die.

No Way To Die is the fourth book in a series which – as a big Marvel and DC fan – I’ve shamelessly started to call ‘The Killer Intent Universe’ (my first book of course being Killer Intent).

The reason for this admittedly grandiose title is because, unlike Jack Reacher or Rebus or any of those series, not every book I write includes all of my main characters. But at the same time they are not complete standalones like, say, John Grisham. And nor are they a collection of separate, unconnected series as David Baldacci tends to do. Instead, I write about four or five main characters (the number keeps growing as I fall in love with new ones and can’t resist bringing them back…) who are all either closely or tangentially connected to one another. They share the same world. They share the same friends, mostly. But they don’t necessarily all share the same adventures. So, like when The Avengers go off on their own to be Thor or to be The Hulk, my characters can have a Dempsey book, a Devlin book, a Dempsey/Devlin book and so on. So you see…a universe!!

That sounds a brilliant concept. Who will we find in No Way To Die?

No Way To Die, then, is a Dempsey book through and through. With a nice sprinkling of Eden Grace – the Secret Service agent introduced in my last book, Power Play – on top. I wrote it during the pandemic when we were all in the strictest phase of the lockdown and it was a late replacement for the book I was supposed to be writing which was – believe it or not – a book about a weaponised virus being used to start a lethal pandemic in the United States! I decided against finishing that one, for reasons I’m sure I don’t need to explain.

Crikey. That’s quite understandable!

But I had a deadline and so I threw myself headlong into No Way To Die. And I have to say, I really feel that that urgency shows up on the page. It’s my fastest paced, most edge-of-your-seat book and I really feel I have my impending deadline to thank for making me put that pressure on the page.

No prevarication in writing No Way To Die then! How would you describe it?

Like all my books, No Way To Die is a twisty, emotional rollercoaster of an action thriller that features strong, realistic characters – both men and women – navigating a scary world. The action jumps between the good guys – Joe Dempsey and Eden Grace from the UN’s International Security Bureau, Special Agent Bambi O’Rourke from Homeland Security and Agent Nicki May from the Department of Justice – and the bad guys as they make their way up the east coast of America over the course of two days, with the bad guys always one step ahead and one step away from causing mass destruction.

That sounds really exciting. How has it been received so far?

The reviews have been great for this one, which I’m much happier about than I should probably admit. The Sunday Times called it a ‘pulsating action thriller’ and picked it as one of the Thrillers of the Month at the time of the hardback release, and the praise from some fellow writers has been humbling. Neil Lancaster – author of Dead Man’s Grave and The Blood Tide called it ‘an absolute belter of a book. Dempsey reminds me of an amalgam of 007 and OrphanX. A blistering, two-fisted thriller you won’t want to put down until you’re done’, Rob Parker – author of The Watchman and Far From The Tree said it was ‘a staggeringly enjoyable thriller… Astonishingly good – to the point of being utterly unmissable’ and even Adam Hamdy – author of Black 13 and Red Wolves – called it ‘a top-notch, edge of the seat thriller’. I know the reviews shouldn’t mean as much as they do, but I can’t help it; authors live in their heads when writing these books and it’s sometimes hard to keep perspective of what’s working and what isn’t. So great feedback is very, very important to us!

That’s quite an endorsement Tony. You should be delighted. 

What else can we expect from an evening in with Tony Kent?

The honest answer is almost certainly a sleeping house-guest! For me writing not my main job. I am actually a barrister specialising in criminal defence and my practice is focused very much on the ‘extremely serious’ end of the criminal spectrum; think murder, organised crime, seven-figure frauds, that sort of thing. It’s very much a full-time job and then some; the hours are extreme, so writing plays second fiddle a bit in terms of the time I can dedicate to it. That said, I produce a book a year at an average length of 120,000 to 130,000 words, so it isn’t that I don’t spend a lot of time at my desk, putting Dempsey and Devlin and co. through their paces. Add the two jobs together, then, and then throw in my young son Joseph and you’ve got a man who isn’t getting nearly enough sleep!

Good grief. If you just need to lie down for a bit I fully understand.

That answer won’t get me an invite back, however, so I’m going to give you the non-sleepy Tony version. And the answer from that guy – if I can remember him – is a proper dining experience! I absolutely love to cook and I make a pretty special array of cocktails, so your evening with Tony Kent will involve…let’s see…seared scallops with crumbled black pudding and caviar with a minted pea puree, followed by a personalised beef wellington with horseradish mash potatoes, steamed and sautéed tenderstem broccoli and – just to sound mega middle-class and alienate everyone from the council estate I grew up on – a good red wine jus. Then we’d finish with frozen berries and white chocolate sauce. And of course, a good wine selection for each course, with the whole thing washed down by margaritas and – for me – an ice cold vespa martini.

And having now promised all that, I’m suddenly starving!

Me too. But if that’s what you’re offering Tony, you can come again! What else have you brought along and why have you brought it?

I have bought along my compilation video of Muhammed Ali’s greatest ‘hits’, because it’s 1988 and you will obviously have a VHS in the house.

Funnily enough I do!

I spent much of my youth obsessively trying to be Muhammed Ali, the greatest heavyweight boxer – and one of the best men – to ever live. I credit boxing (and of course my parents) with having kept me on the straight and narrow in the rough world in which I grew up. Many of the people I knew from my early childhood went the wrong way in life, and that misdirection began when they were hanging around the streets at night, picking fights and committing petty crime.

While they were doing that, I spent my nights in the local boxing club, learning how to fight properly and dedicating myself to a sport that, for a long time, I hoped would be my life. My biggest hero then was Ali and my biggest hero now is the same guy. Of course I discovered as I grew that for all the dedication and hard work and obsession – and I had them all – there is only so far you can go without God-given talent. And I didn’t have it. I was better than most – I won most of my fights and I picked up titles and championships here and there, paced mainly on pure determination, an unnaturally hard head and a very big right hand – but I was never making it to the world title. But that didn’t matter. Boxing made me the man I am; it gave me the opportunities in life that led me to where I am today. It made me think that, like Ali proved, anything was possible.

Wow. You’ve had an interesting life and come a long way from boxer to writer.

It also helps me write a hell of a fight scene, but that’s another matter entirely!

And so it’s the Ali compilation for us, I’m afraid. And a long old lecture about what made him ‘The Greatest’!!

You’re actually preaching to the converted here Tony. I was a little bit in love with Ali and reference to him always makes me think of my much missed Dad as we’d watch his fights together.

Thanks so much for staying in with me to chat about No Way To Die Tony. I really must catch up with the whole The Killer Intent Universe. Now, I think you mentioned cocktails. You get mixing and I’ll give Linda’s Book Bag readers a few more details: 

No Way to Die

A deadly threat. A ghost from the past. And time is running out…

When traces of a radioactive material are found alongside a body in Key West, multiple federal agencies suddenly descend on the crime scene. This is not just an isolated murder: a domestic terrorist group is ready to bring the US government to its knees.

The threat hits close to home for Agent Joe Dempsey when he discovers a personal connection to the group. With his new team member, former Secret Service agent Eden Grace, Dempsey joins the race to track down the terrorists’ bomb before it’s too late. But when their mission falls apart, he is forced to turn to the most unlikely of allies: an old enemy he thought he had buried in his past.

Now, with time running out, they must find a way to work together to stop a madman from unleashing horrifying destruction across the country.

Already available in other formats, No Way To Die is published by Elliott and Thompson in paperback on 14th April and is available for purchase through the links here.

About Tony Kent

Tony Kent is a practising criminal barrister who draws on his legal experience to bring a striking authenticity to his thrillers: Killer Intent, Marked for Death, Power Play and now No Way To Die.

Ranked as a ‘leader in his field’ Tony has prosecuted and defended in the most serious trials during his twenty years at the Criminal Bar – specialising in murder, terrorism, corruption, kidnap and organised crime. His case history is filled with nationally reported trials and his practice has brought him into close professional contact with GCHQ, the Security Service and the Ministry of Defence. He has also defended in matters with an international element, involving agencies such as the FBI.

Tony also appears as a criminal justice expert on a number of TV shows, including Meet, Marry, Murder (on Prime and coming soon to Netflix), My Lover, My Killer (Netflix) and Kill Thy Neighbour (Channel 5). April will see the launch of a True Crime podcast with Tony and author and former police officer, Neil Lancaster – examining crime and criminal justice from the perspective of a defence barrister and a cop.

Prior to his legal career Tony represented England as a heavyweight boxer and won a host of national amateur titles.

He lives just outside of London with his wife, young son and dog.

For further information, visit Tony’s website, follow him on Twitter @TonyKent_Writes and find him on Instagram and Facebook.

An Extract from The Alabama Black McGruders by J. R. Rothstein

Many, many moons ago, as part of my degree I studied slavery and emancipation in the USA as one of my minor options. Consequently I was intrigued when J. R. Rothstein approached me about his book recently published book The Alabama Black McGruders as it traces his own ancestry back to those times. Although I sadly don’t have time to read and review the book, I am pleased to be able to share an extract from it today. Please be aware that historical reference may be offensive to modern life and I have removed foot notes for ease of use on the blog.

Published by Redstone on 13th February 2022, The Alabama Black McGruders is available for purchase here.

The Alabama Black McGruders

The Alabama Black McGruders tells the story of Charles McGruder Sr. (1829 – 1900-c), his father Ned (1795 – 1853-c) and mother Mariah Magruder (1800 – 1880-c).

Charles, the enslaved black grandson of a white slave owner, Ninian O. Magruder (1744 – 1803) was born in Alabama on the plantation of his white aunt, Eleanor Magruder Wynne (1785 – 1849) in 1829.

Through a series of events, Charles, a carpenter, came to be sexually exploited and forced to sire a hundred children, including fifty-two sons, with numerous women.

During the Reconstruction era, Charles, his last wife Rachel Hill (1845-1933), and their children, received reparations from his white relative and enslaver, Osmun A. Wynne (1804 -1877).

Charles’ children established communal and business networks and institutions to support their families and communities. Today, the Alabama Black McGruders continue to impact the story of the United States in areas of culture, government, law, science, medicine, academia, and business. This is the story of their origins.

An Extract from The Alabama Black McGruders

Charles Forms Numerous Families & Becomes a Breeder of Enslaved People

It was in this time of success for the Williams—William A. Ferrell and William A. Wynne—that, according to Alabama Black McGruder family lore, Charles Magruder was exploited as a stud to breed enslaved people.

Charles’s exploitation was part of a larger effort by entrepreneurial enslavers and slave traders to breed human beings for forced labor in chattel slavery.

The prohibition of the importation of slaves from Africa after 1807 limited the supply of slaves in the United States. In the same period, the Louisiana Purchase of 1803 doubled the size of the new republic and opened up vast new territories to settlement. The invention of the cotton gin in the 1790s had enabled expanded cultivation and increased the demand for labor in cotton-producing areas. As a result of all these factors, the domestic slave market expanded rapidly in the early 19th century. During this time, the terms “breeding slaves,” “childbearing women,” “breeding period,” and “too old to breed” became familiar. Planters in the Upper South—Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina—sold slaves in large numbers to the Deep South, including Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. At least a million enslaved people were trafficked from eastern states to the newer frontiers—some sold to slave traders, others forced to migrate with their owners. According to historian E. Franklin Frazier, in his book The Negro Family, “there were masters who, without any regard for the preferences of their slaves, mated their human chattel as they did their stock.” According to Alabama Black McGruder oral history, Charles Magruder was one of these “breeding slaves.”

According to Lucille B. Osborne, “Charles’s slave owner wanted him to have as many slave children as he possibly could so he could have more slaves, to have more money, so that he could keep the plantation going.” Charles also is reported to have been hired out as a breeder, sent from plantation to plantation in order to sire children.

Jeptha Choice, a non-related former enslaved person from Texas, was also wielded as a stud to ‘breed’ enslaved people. His experience may provide insight into the experiences of Charles Magruder. Jeptha stated the following:

The old Massa was mighty careful about the raisin’ of healthy nigger families and used us, strong, healthy young bucks to ‘stand’ the healthy, young gals. You see when you was young, they took care not to strain me, an’ I was a pretty good nigger, as handsome as a speckled pup, and I was much in demand for breedin’. You see in those days people seemed to know more about such things than they do now. If a young, scrawny nigger was found foolin’ ‘round the women, he was whyupped, and maybe sold.

Later on, we, good strong niggers was ‘lowed to marry, and the Massa and old Missus would fix the nigger and gal up in new clo’se and have the doin’s in the ‘Big House’. White folks would all gather round in a circle with the nigger and gal in the center. Then old Massa would lay a broom down on the floor in front of ‘em an’ tell ‘em to join hands and jump over the broom. That married ‘em for good.

When babies were bo’n, old nigger grannies handle’ most all them cases, but until they was about three years old, the children wan’t ‘lowed ‘round our regular living quarters, but were wet nursed by nigger women who did not work in the field and kept in separate quarters. In the evenin’, the mammies were let to see ‘em.

We was fed good and had lots of beef and hung meat and wild game. ‘Possum and sweet yams is mighty good . . . ‘Course sometime they was grief, too, when some of the niggers was sold. Iffen old Massa sold a nigger man that was married, he always tried to sell the wife to the same folks so they would not be separated. Children under twelve were thrown in. But sometimes a nigger would be sold to someone, and the woman to someone else; and then they’d be carryings-on. But they was so ‘fraid of getting whipped, or maybe killed, that they went peaceful-like—but mighty sorrowful. The children went with the mother . . . . I’ve been married eight times but haven’t got any legitimate children that I know of. I’ve got some children from “outside” women I’ve had to “stand” for, but I don’t know how many. You see, them old days was different from what it is now!

Another narrative, collected from an unrelated former enslaved person named Maggie Stenhouse, records that:

During slavery there were stockmen. They were weighed and tested. A man would rent the stockman and put him in a room with some young women he wanted to raise children from. Next morning when they come to let him out the man ask him what he done and he was so glad to get out. Them women nearly kill him. If he sa’d nothin’ th’y wouldn’t have to pay for him. Them women nearly kill him. Some of the slave owners rented these stockmen. They didn’t let them work in the field and they kept them fed up good.

The experiences of Luke Blackshear parallel those of Charles Magruder in many ways. According to a slave narrative conveyed in 1938 by his descendant, Ida Blackshear, Luke, too, was wielded as a stud to breed enslaved people:

Luke was six feet four inches tall and near two hundred fifty pounds in weight. He was what they called a double-jointed man. He was a mechanic—built houses, made keys, and did all other blacksmith work and shoemaking. He did anything in iron, wood or leather. Really he was an architect as well. He could take raw cowhide and make leather out of it and then make shoes out of the leather.

Luke was the father of fifty-six children and was known as the GIANT BREEDER.  He was bought and given to his young mistress in the same way you would give a mule or colt to a child …

Although he was a stock Negro, he was whipped and drove just like the other Negroes. All of the other Negroes were driven on the farm. He had to labor but he didn’t have to work with the other slaves on the farm unless there was no mechanical work to do. He was given better work because he was a skilled mechanic.

Once on the Blackshear place, they took all the fine looking boys and girls that was thirteen years old or older and put them in a big barn after they had stripped them naked. They used to strip them naked and put them in a big barn every Sunday and leave them there until Monday morning. Out of that came sixty babies.

They was too many babies to leave in the quarters for someone to take care of during the day. When the young mothers went to work, Blackshear had them take their babies with them to the field, and it was two or three miles from the house to the field. He didn’t want them to lose time walking backward and forward nursing. They built a long old trough like a great long old cradle and put all these babies in it every morning when the mother come out to the field. It was set at the end of the rows under a big old cottonwood tree.

When they were at the other end of the row, all at once a cloud no bigger than a small spot came up, and it grew fast, and it thundered and lightened as if the world were coming to an end, and the rain just came down in great sheets. And when it got so they could go to the other end of the field, that trough was filled with water and every baby in it was floating ‘round in the water drownded. They never got nary a lick of labor and nary a red penny for any one of them babies.

Cornelia Andrews, another unrelated formerly enslaved person from North Carolina, recounted the belief that her father may have been a breeding “stock nigger.” She states:

I ‘specks dat I doan know who my pappy wuz, maybe de stock nigger on de plantation. . . Yo’ knows deyain’t let no little runty nigger have no chilluns. Naw sir, deyain’t, dey operate on dem lakdey does de male hog so’s datdey can’t have no little runty chilluns.

According to Lucille Burden Osborne, Charles was considered a “valuable piece of property” and a prized slave by his owner. Additionally, because Charles was moved and rented from place to place, from plantation to plantation, he had to start a family anew in each one. Gwendolyn Hubbard reports that Charles had five different “legitimate” families during slavery. The names of just four of the women are known. Wilmar McGruder, however, asserts that only three of the wives were legitimate.

Between 1854 and 1859, William A. Ferrell managed to gain control of the black Magruder family, even after his remarriage to another woman, leaving Salina Ann Wynne enraged. The Alabama Black McGruder oral history indicates that during this period Charles cohabited with many unknown women on a variety of plantations in the region—the details of which are lost to history. Two significant relationships, however, did emerge from this time, both with women named Mary: Mary May and another Mary, for whom there are few details.


J.R. also shared a photograph of his great-great-great grandmother, Rachel Hill.

There is also a YouTube clip available to watch here about the family that was part of an ABC mini-documentary series.

About J. R. Rothstein

J.R. Rothstein is a real estate attorney, investor, and a Fulbright Scholar. He enjoys history, nature, good stories, and community work. He lives in New York City.

For further information, visit his website. You’ll also find J.R on Facebook.