By Darren Franich
October 05, 2016 at 02:04 PM EDT
David James
  • Movie

Lee Child created Jack Reacher, the heroic ex-major who left the U.S. Army Military Police Corps to wage a one-man war on evildoers across the nation. So it’s only appropriate that Lee Child appeared in Jack Reacher, the 2012 film starring Tom Cruise. In that film, Child had a short cameo as a police officer. And EW and PEOPLE are excited to exclusively announce that the author returns in the upcoming Jack Reacher: Never Go Back.

“A theme is developing,” Child says, laughing. “I’m always in uniform, and I’m always somewhat suspicious of what is going on with Cruise.” In Never Go Back, there’s a scene where Cruise’s Reacher has a phony ID; Child is an airport agent scanning his identification. “That was all Tom’s idea,” he explains. “He’s a very smart guy who’s very, very expert at storytelling. He wanted that scene on a whole number of levels. I’m kind of judging him at that moment. It is, in a way, very respectful of the fact that I wrote this character, and now he has received the baton, playing the character in the movie. This is the author saying to the actor: Go for it. Enjoy your trip!”

Child is ecstatic about Never Go Back, which is adapted from the 18th book in his Reacher series. The film sees Reacher paired up with an Army major named Susan Turner, who’s embroiled in a conspiracy that reaches from the Middle East and Washington, D.C. to New Orleans. And both characters have to deal with a mysterious teenager, played by Danika Yarosh. “Instead of being a lone wolf, it becomes a three-hander,” says Child. “The three of them have got to work together to get out of the mess. And they are unfamiliar with taking orders. They’re all alpha characters used to being their own boss.”

Child’s next Reacher novel, a prequel titled Night School, arrives in stores on Nov. 8, just a few weeks after Never Go Back‘s Oct. 21 release date. Night School will be the 21st book in the series — which means that Paramount has plenty of material to choose from, should it move ahead with a third film. Does Child have any Reacher adventure he’d like to see adapted? “The Reacher series of books span urban stories, rural stories, badlands stories,” he explains. “The first [movie] was very urban, in Pittsburgh. The second one is urban, in D.C. and New Orleans. What I would love to see is one of the badlands stories: big empty country, very few buildings. A lonelier feel to it. Fundamentally, Reacher is a Western character.”

  • Movie
  • PG-13
release date
  • 10/21/16
  • 118 minutes
  • Ed Zwick
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