Many actors have tried their hand in music, to which countless, ill-advised cover albums testify. It’s less common to move into the world of novel writing, but that’s exactly what Richard Armitage has done with his debut thriller, Geneva.

He’s the star of numerous TV and film hits, including The Hobbit, Spooks and North & South. He’s also a huge success in the world of audio books, having loaned his husky baritone to countless classics. 

In conversation at Salford’s Lowry as part of Manchester Literature Festival, it was interesting to hear Armitage discuss the dangers of Artificial Intelligence in relation to the creative world, with him advocating that giving voice to books shouldn’t be done in a perfect, robot manner. He believes it is more natural to be flawed and that we should cherish any errors.

Given his experience in audio books, Armitage’s initial plan was to write something purely for audio release, but the project gathered momentum and Geneva was the result.

Kaitlyn Mikayla Photography

Geneva is the story of Nobel Prize-winning scientist Sarah Collier who, after endorsing a controversial neuro implant, is invited to attend a prestigious biotech conference. At the same time, she is nursing her father who is suffering from Alzheimer’s, while realising that she is in the early stages of the disease.

Armitage was keen to stress that there were no ghost writers on the project, with the only advice and outside input coming from his editor. A lover of thrillers, he referred to the 1950s movie So Long at the Fair as one of his earliest influences, loving being able to disappear into the adventure of it all.

Inevitably, the conversation turned to his acting career and, to the surprise of the audience, the fact that he began as a song and dance man. However, delivering numbers and jazz hands routines directly to an audience felt far too revealing. Armitage decided instead to go down the acting route, preferring to disappear into a character as part of an ensemble.

Throughout the evening, Armitage’s shunning of celebrity culture was evident. Despite a brief Q&A, there was little direct engagement with the audience, not helped by the chairs for the author and interviewer being placed almost directly opposite one another on stage. At times, it felt like we were eavesdropping on a private chat rather than being part of the event.

Inevitably, plans are already in place to turn Armitage’s book into a TV drama, and the actor has already begun work on novel number two, another thriller tentatively entitled The Cut. Watch this space. 

By Drew Tosh

Main image: Richard Armitage by Kaitlyn Mikayla Photography