This article is from 2006.
For the last two decades Scottish writer James Meek has juggled two careers, producing five works of fiction while also earning a crust as one of the country's best-respected newspaper reporters. Meek appears twice at this year's festival, once for his fiction, while the other stems from his journalistic activities. Meek will be delivering the Scottish PEN lecture (organised by the local arm of the writers' association) about the founding of the Afghan PEN, as well as the ongoing imprisonment of Al Jazeera journalists in Guantanamo Bay. Meek is well qualified to speak on such matters, his reporting from the likes of Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo Bay having won numerous press awards.
Meek's other appearance is alongside Ali Smith and Kathleen Jamie as one of the shortlisted authors for the Scottish Arts Council Book of the Year Award for his most recent novel, The People's Act of Love, a tale of castrated cults and cannibalism in revolution-torn Siberia. For Meek, running the two careers in tandem seems perfectly natural. 'I've been doing the two in parallel for 20 years and I never really had a problem,' he says.
'I don't think I was ever writing fiction that seemed like journalism.'
Although his previous fiction was well received, it was only with The People's Act of Love that Meek's fiction career really took off, the book sneaking onto the Booker longlist. Meek is currently working on his next book, a contemporary tale clearly influenced by his own travels. (Doug
Charlotte Square Gardens, 0845 373 5888, 12 Aug (SAC Book of the Year), noon, £7 (£5); 20 Aug, 8.30pm, £8 (£6).