Best-selling author Gregg Hurwitz discusses the new thriller in his ‘Orphan X’ series

Best-selling author Gregg Hurwitz discusses the new thriller in his ‘Orphan X’ series
Published: Jan. 18, 2023 at 5:56 PM EST
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LOS ANGELES, CA. (WECT) - Evan Smoak is back in action again. New York Times best-selling author Gregg Hurwitz brings back Orphan X for his eighth thriller novel, “The Last Orphan,” which releases next month.

After being removed from a foster home and trained as an assassin in the CIA’s Orphan Program, Smoak continues his transformation from off-the-books government killer to “Nowhere Man,” the solitary underground operator at the other end of the phone who willingly provides help to the most desperate in society. In The Last Orphan, Smoak is reluctantly drawn into a mission by the President of the United States, and he must decide whether the deal to win his freedom is worth going back on the promise made years ago to use his potentially lethal skills and assets only against those who deserve it.

“Each mission that he does on his own, is him getting a tiny piece of his soul back in certain ways and his own understanding of himself,” Hurwitz says of Smoak. “Here’s this man who, when he was trained when he was a kid, his handler from the CIA told him, the hard part won’t be making you a killer. The hard part is going to be keeping you human. So, his whole life has been a tension between these things and each one of the stories is about him going out and confronting some nearly impossible mission to help somebody else who’s in need, and to try and find access to a part of himself that he’s never been able to.”

Fans of the Orphan X books will enjoy Smoak’s continued relationship with recurring characters, including teenage hacker Joey Morales, armorer Tommy Stojack, and fellow former Orphan Candy McClure. With The Last Orphan, Hurwitz has now matched the number of novels in his Marked Man series, which ran from 2002 to 2014. Those eight books, although similar in theme, did not center around the same character.

“I thought back to the books and characters who I loved so much growing up, whether that was Jason Bourne, or James Bond, or Jack Reacher or (Bob Lee) Swagger, and I always knew that I wanted to have some kind of character that would continue,” Hurwitz said about creating Evan Smoak. “But, I had to wait to write him until I really had a sense of what of how I could differentiate him from all the other characters that have come before. And so it was a long ways into my career, 16 books in, when I finally felt that I was ready, and I had thought enough about and around this character, to devote my time to it.”

Hurwitz has written 24 thrillers and young adult thrillers since his 1999 debut, The Tower. It’s not the only genre the Harvard grad has done. He’s written two screenplays for films, The Book of Henry (2017) and Sweet Girl (2021), crafted stories for several comic book characters including Batman, Penguin, Wolverine and Punisher, and he’s also published poetry. He says switching between styles takes some getting used to.

“I feel in a lot of ways that writing in these different forms, it helps to be an overall writing shape,” the married father of two says. “But some of them are very different muscles, so it does take a bit of entry. I can usually transition from one to another. But when I transition to a whole multitude of them, a lot of times it starts to kind of come apart. I do a lot better focusing completely on one project, having like a very focused creative burst of energy for days, ideally weeks or months. I don’t always have that luxury because of competing deadlines. Then to pick up the focus on put it down on something else, it does take some time to kind of readjust and reacclimate to the cadence and the tenor of a different form to try and maximize that form.”

Hurwitz says he has worked on adapting the Orphan X books for TV and film and is waiting for the right set of creative partners to take the project to production, so Evan Smoak fans might be able to enjoy the character in a new way.

“We get inquiries almost every week from actors or directors who are looking for it,” Hurwitz said. “I’m just waiting to find really the right match because I think I’m not going to do the adaptation or if it’s a TV show, do the show running. Moving forward, I need to have somebody who’s a partner who I feel like really understands the story and the DNA of the character. And then I’ll be ready to move on.”

Gregg Hurwitz’s The Last Orphan goes on sale in bookstores and online on February 14, 2023.