Where there’s Smoak, there’s fire – Gregg Hurwitz chats about his bestselling Orphan X series
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Author Gregg Hurwitz on the formidable Evan Smoak, a trained government assassin who’s on a personal mission to help those with nowhere to turn, and the bad-ass hero of the Orphan X series.

‘Evan is someone who, no matter how dark it gets, will never let go of his humanity.’

What do you think it is about Evan that appeals to readers?
As Jack told Evan from the very beginning when he was a scrawny twelve-year-old kid: ‘The hard part won’t be making you a killer. The hard part will be keeping you human.’ The latter is Evan’s curse and his blessing. He is someone who, no matter how dark it gets, will never let go of his humanity.

Does Evan still continue to surprise you at times, even though you’re eight books in?
As an assassin pulled out of a foster home and trained up from the age of twelve, Evan never learned to speak the strange language of intimacy. He’s at ease garrotting a human trafficker in a Muscovite banya, but small talk at the mail slots in the residential tower where he hides under an alias? It nearly undoes him. But he never gives up. He keeps trying to figure out how to live in the real world among real people. His commitment to it, despite the messes that other humans create, never ceases to surprise me.

What’s behind your decision to make the president in The Last Orphan a woman?
I’m used to the kinds of messes made by male presidents in America. I thought the messes a female president would make might look different. Victoria Donahue-Carr negotiates power differently than her predecessor. She keeps a tight team around her and leads with energy and psychologically astute strategy. In The Last Orphan, she needs a mission executed. A nearly impossible mission. She knows the only person in the world who could do it properly is Orphan X. As the most powerful human being on the planet, she is willing to use whatever resources at her disposal to bring him under her control one final time.

What type of message do you hope to send with Evan and his no-nonsense approach to bad guys?
That a man must uphold his code above all else.

Which scene in The Last Orphan is your absolute favourite?
Chapter 52. No question. Neither fight nor bullet in it.

What’s been your most memorable research experience?
Once I interviewed a hospital tech while he was carving up a cadaver, parting it out for different departments. The head went to neurology, the joints to the orthopods, etc. When he was done, he opened a massive freezer door and inside the room were about two dozen corpses suspended by their heads from figure-eight scissor clamps, dangling a few feet off the ground. They’re stored that way to keep their bodies from distorting, which makes them more useful for medical students.

The tech grabbed the next body, slid it out along on a track in the ceiling, lowered it down on the dissection table, and began his work anew.

What are your obsessions at the writing desk?
Words, words, words. And nothing to interrupt me from them.

The Last Orphan is out now.


This article was originally published in The Penguin Post, a magazine from Penguin Random House South Africa. 

Categories Fiction International

Tags Gregg Hurwitz Interviews Orphan X Penguin Random House SA The Last Orphan The Penguin Post

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