Good Minds Suggest: Gregg Hurwitz's Favorite Books About Assassins

Posted by Goodreads on January 4, 2016

Rate this book
Clear rating
Most writers dedicate their books to real people. Then there's Gregg Hurwitz. The bestselling American author dedicated his new book, Orphan X, to Jason Bourne, Arya Stark, Jack Bauer, and dozens of other fictional "bad boys and girls, rulebreakers and vigilantes" who inspire his writing. The moral ambiguity that is central to these iconic characters is also evident in each of his books. From heart-pounding crime thrillers like You're Next and The Survivor to a devilish Gotham City face-off in Batman: The Dark Knight, Vol. 2: Cycle of Violence, Hurwitz likes to tease the darkness lurking in men's and women's hearts.

Orphan X is no exception. The thriller introduces readers to Evan Smoak, a perfect deniable intelligence asset—i.e. assassin—who's on the run from a predator as dangerous and unpredictable as himself. Bradley Cooper is in talks to produce and star in the film adaptation for Warner Bros.

Hurwitz tells Goodreads, "I'm drawn to characters with, shall we say, an intimate relationship with their Jungian shadow." He shares his favorite books about deadly spies, rogue agents, and all-around badasses.

Avenger by Frederick Forsyth
Rate this book
Clear rating
"In order that I not be drawn and quartered, my list must begin with Frederick Forsyth. In Avenger career badass Cal Dexter relentlessly pursues a Serbian gangster into the jungles of the (fictional) Republic of St. Martin. As a former Vietnam tunnel rat, Dexter has quite a few surprises up his proverbial sleeve. When the mayhem rains in the jungle, it rains hard and heavy."

Shovel Ready by Adam Sternbergh
Rate this book
Clear rating
"In Shovel Ready Adam Sternbergh introduces one of my favorite new characters. Former garbageman Spademan roams through the dystopic near-future world of New York. Many of the post-dirty-bomb Manhattanites have plugged themselves into a virtual reality to avoid the brutalities of real life. Spademan is quick with a box cutter, quicker yet with his wit. And that's what gets me here. On top of all the grit and well-crafted violence, the writing is so goddamned clever. That's where Sternbergh earns a comparison to noir masters past—he'll make you squirm and chuckle at the same time."

Polar: Came from the Cold by Victor Santos
Rate this book
Clear rating
"I'm gonna take a hard turn now into graphic novels and plunk before you a little gem called Polar. A deadly rogue agent, bloodstained snow drifts, and an aptly named villainous agency. (It's called Damocles. I mean, right?) This one is gorgeously drawn and elegant in its sparseness of text. Imagine if Frank Miller and Ian Fleming had a love child. Wait—don't imagine that. That's sort of creepy. Just read it instead."

I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes
Rate this book
Clear rating
"I Am Pilgrim took both sides of the Atlantic by storm last year. More than 600 pages of fascinating detail and delicious detours make this a great meaty read. A former intelligence operative, Pilgrim has left behind the life but soon enough falls into a sticky web of intrigue. The more he thrashes, the harder it is for him to claw his way out. With a foe as artfully drawn as the protagonist, this book achieves a kind of suspended suspense that is a throwback to the golden age of assassin thrillers. (Hi, Mr. Forsyth!)"

Slayground by Richard Stark
Rate this book
Clear rating
"OK, Parker. We can't leave him out, even though he's not technically an assassin. He's a career criminal and all-around bad guy whom we love despite the better angels clinging to our shoulders, desperately trying to convince us otherwise. He's primarily a heist man, but his willingness to kill to further his aims is what wins him inclusion on this list. My favorite Parker is Slayground, where Parker winds up trapped in an off-season amusement park with a crew of killers. But I suppose we should really be asking if that crew of killers is in fact trapped in there with him. Dun dun dunnn!"

And a last word from Hurwitz: "Before I sign off, I'll leave you with [Orphan X's] dedication because I promise you'll find a few more favorites in there.

To all the bad boys and girls, rulebreakers and vigilantes—

Philip Marlowe and Sam Spade, Bruce Wayne and Jason Bourne, Bond and Bullitt, Joe Pike and Jack Reacher, Hawk and Travis McGee, the Seven Samurai and the Magnificent Seven, Mack Bolan and Frank Castle, the three Johns (W. Creasey, Rambo, and McClane), Captain Ahab and Guy Montag, Mike Hammer and Paul Kersey, the Lone Ranger and the Shadow, Robin Hood and Van Helsing, Beowulf and Gilgamesh, Ellen Ripley and Sarah Connor, Perseus and Coriolanus, Hanna and Hannibal, the Man with No Name and the Professional, Parker and Lucy, Arya Stark and George Stark, Pike Bishop and Harmonica, Lancelot and Achilles, Shane and Snake Plissken, Ethan Edwards and Bill Munny, Jack Bauer and Repairman Jack, the Killer and the Killer, Zorro and the Green Hornet, Dexter and Mad Max, the Dirty Dozen and Dirty Harry, the Terminator and Lady Vengeance, Cool Hand Luke and Lucas Davenport, Logan 5 and James "Logan" Howlett, V and Vic Mackey, Hartigan and Marv, Sherlock and Luther, Veronica Mars and Selina Kyle

—for being so wicked that they're good."

Vote for your own favorites on Listopia: Best Books About Assassins

Comments Showing 1-27 of 27 (27 new)

dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Donna (new)

Donna Hello!!! Have you not read Daniel Silva? His books are exceptional and his assassin, Gabriel, is supremo. I am truly surprised to see him excluded. Daniel Silva is the only author I buy in hard cover.

message 2: by Ellen (new)

Ellen I had he same thought as Donna - where is Gabriel?

message 3: by Terry (new)

Terry Parrish Not only did you leave out the above, but you definitely left out El Rey. Want to know who he is? Ask, and I'll tell you.

message 4: by Deborah (new)

Deborah Thanks for adding Richard Stark. I'm an absolute fan of his books. I recommend him to all fans of crime drama.

message 5: by Jacob (new)

Jacob Terry wrote: "Not only did you leave out the above, but you definitely left out El Rey. Want to know who he is? Ask, and I'll tell you." Who IS El Rey? Thanks!

message 6: by The Twins (new)

The Twins Also missing one of my favourites - Victor from Tom Wood

message 7: by Terry (new)

Terry Parrish Jacob wrote: "Terry wrote: "Not only did you leave out the above, but you definitely left out El Rey. Want to know who he is? Ask, and I'll tell you." Who IS El Rey? Thanks!"

El Rey is the main character in the books by Russell Blake. Check them out, you'll like them. Fast paced, exceptional reads.

message 8: by Terry (new)

Terry Parrish Terry wrote: "Jacob wrote: "Terry wrote: "Not only did you leave out the above, but you definitely left out El Rey. Want to know who he is? Ask, and I'll tell you." Who IS El Rey? Thanks!"

El Rey is the main ch..."

And these books are the Assassin Series, forgot to tell you that.

message 9: by Jacob (new)

Jacob Terry wrote: "Terry wrote: "Jacob wrote: "Terry wrote: "Not only did you leave out the above, but you definitely left out El Rey. Want to know who he is? Ask, and I'll tell you." Who IS El Rey? Thanks!"

El Rey ..."

Sounds great, thank you I'll definitely check them out.

So long as we're talking assassins that got "snubbed" how about Barry Eisler's John Rain, he's great. Can't think of the character Trevanian wrote about but he's great, too.

message 10: by Jacob (new)

Jacob The Grey Man by Mark Greaney is a four book (so far) series that is really good.

message 11: by Marvin (new)

Marvin Mitch Rapp by Vince Flynn and John Wells by Alex Berenson. Both must read in this genre.

message 12: by Wendy (new)

Wendy I can't believe Mitch Rapp was not on that list! The late Vince Flynn was a genius in this genre.

message 13: by April (new)

April Joy The wrote: "Also missing one of my favourites - Victor from Tom Wood"

The series about Jet, a female assassin by Russell Blake are amazing also.

message 14: by Keith (new)

Keith I'd say Gabriel Allon was more Spy than assassin, certainly the books I've read. Tom Wood series (Victor) are good as is Mark Greaneys (Gentry)
The list seems more like characters that would've been around earlier than Victor, Gentry & Rapp but still good additions. I could list a few dozen Assassin Books from my collection if anyone wants something new.

message 15: by Colin (new)

Colin Holland Jacob wrote: "Terry wrote: "Not only did you leave out the above, but you definitely left out El Rey. Want to know who he is? Ask, and I'll tell you." Who IS El Rey? Thanks!"


message 16: by Chris (new)

Chris Holme Jacob wrote: "Terry wrote: "Terry wrote: "Jacob wrote: "Terry wrote: "Not only did you leave out the above, but you definitely left out El Rey. Want to know who he is? Ask, and I'll tell you." Who IS El Rey? Tha..."

Jacob wrote: "Terry wrote: "Terry wrote: "Jacob wrote: "Terry wrote: "Not only did you leave out the above, but you definitely left out El Rey. Want to know who he is? Ask, and I'll tell you." Who IS El Rey? Tha..."

The Trevanian characters were Nicholai Hell or the character Hemlock from the earlier "Sanction" novels

message 17: by Keith (last edited Jan 08, 2016 08:04PM) (new)

Keith I've spent a bit of time looking up the characters listed unknown to me, Have you tried to trace the Repairman Jack series? Haha.
Take some advil beforehand.. What a headache.
Greggs book 'You're Next' was brilliant, I'm now onto 'The Survivor'.
I'm a nail biter & can't wait to chew them up (which is a first) reading Orphan X.
Goodluck Mr H with the new release.
P.s Nicholai Hel of Shibumi & Satori (Don Winslow wrote the 2nd of the series)

message 18: by Don (new)

Don Williams You cant overlook the pair of badguys who are consistently helping to get P.I Charlie Parker out of jams in John Connollys masterful novels. Angel and Louis, esp. Louis, could find ways to take out most of the badasses mentioned in this thread. Deadly efficient puts it mildly with these two.

message 19: by Terry (new)

Terry Parrish You haven't read about El Rey, have you?

message 20: by Keith (new)

Keith I read El Rey in 'Night Of The Assassin' a prequel to the series I believe, it was pretty good.
Jet however I couldn't finish.
There's a few other characters out there who I'd go out and buy before him though.
Guys like David Morrell (The brotherhood series), Lawrence Block (Keller Series), Tom Cain (Carver to Series ), Thomas Perry (The Butchers Boy series), Matthew Dunn (Spycatcher Series), Derek Haas (Columbus series) Jack Higgins (Numerous titles)
You can see where this is going, El who?? (Jk)
Then there's -
Danny King - Hitman Diaries.
Neil Cross - Mr In-Between.
John Locke -Donovan Creed Series.
Don Winslow - The Winter of Frankie Machine.
Brett Battles - Jonathan Quinn Series
David Baldacci - Will Robie Series.
Kevin Wignall - People Die & Who is Conrad Hirst.
A.J Quinell - Creasey Series (Denzel in Man on fire)

message 21: by Wendy (new)

Wendy And then there is Dominika Egorava. Jason Matthews intriguing Russian lady, doing what's needed in the Red Sparrow.

message 22: by Terry (new)

Terry Parrish Do you read Clive Cussler?

message 23: by Keith (new)

Keith Is that directed to myself Terry??
If it is then no, not yet. However I did get books 1 through to 6 in the Juan Cabarello series (Oregon files) I've just not quite got around to reading them yet..
I do intend to start the 1st of the series, Golden Buddha in the near(ish) future..

Does anyone know any books where the protagonist is an Assassin?
I'd be really interested to find something new.
I'm just starting Day of the Jackal by Freddie Forsyth, that's the type of books I'm looking for..
But please nothing to do with wizards or vampires or anything that could be misconstrued as a love child between a witch or goblins and Jason Bourne.
Thank You.

message 24: by Terry (new)

Terry Parrish Yes, I was just wondering. And also that Russell Blake co-wrote a couple of books with him.

Erin *Proud Book Hoarder* Love the recommendation - and a big kudos to that dedication for mentioning some of the best characters around. A further kudos for including characters from 'The Shield' in there, loved it.

message 26: by Richard (new)

Richard Gotta add "Stephanie Patrick" in Mark Burnell's series, too: Rhythm Section, Chameleon, Gemini, and Third Woman.

message 27: by Edward (new)

Edward Here's my complete list. I'm sure I'll find more.

A.J Quinnell Creasy Series
Allen Zadoff Boy Nobody
Andrew Vacjss
Barry Eisler John Rain
Brad Thor Scot Harvath Series
Brett Battles Jonathan Quinn Series
Danny King The hitman diaries
David Baldacci
Derek Haas The Silver Bear Trilogy
Don Winslow The Winter of Frankie Machine
Duncan Falconer The Operative
Eric Lustbader Nicholas Linnear Series
Jack Coughlin Kyle Swanson Series
Jennifer Estep Elemental Assassin
John Lock Lethal People
Kevin Wignall People Die
Lawrence Block Keller
Malcolm Mackay Glasgow Underword
Mark Greaney The Grayman
Mark Greaney Dead Eye
Matt Hilton Joe Hunter Series
Matt Lynn Death Inc Series
Mr In-between Neil Cross
Olen Steinhauer Milo Weaver Series
Oliver Bowden Assassin's Creed
Patrick Dewitt The Sisters Brothers
Simon Kernick Dennis Milne
Simon Spurrier The Contract
Thomas Perry The Butcher's Boy
Tom Cain Sam Carver
Tom Wood
Trevanian Shibumi
Vince Flynn Mitch Rapp
Daniel Silva Gabriel Allon

back to top