Where in the World is Cónal Creedon?: Fans of Cork author take his work global 

From New Zealand to Siberia, from the White House to under the Sea of Cortez, Cónal Creedon’s readers have taken to posting photographs of his books in exotic locations. The Cork author talks to Donal O’Keeffe about becoming an internet phenomenon.
Where in the World is Cónal Creedon?: Fans of Cork author take his work global 

Jolene Cronin reading Cónal Creedon's 'Begotten Not Made' in the Sea of Cortez. Picture: Jim Kennedy of Atlantic Sea Kayaking. 

“It all began in a spontaneous organic way, and it was happening before I realised it was ‘a thing’,” Cónal Creedon says as he pours the tea in the front room of his home in the city centre.

“I think it all began around the time that Begotten Not Made came out in 2018. A couple posted a photograph online of a New Zealand sunset, taken in a campervan, and incidentally my novel Passion Play was on the table.

“People copped it online, and said ‘Oh that’s Cónal’s book’. Two weeks later the same couple - I think they were on tour - posted another photograph, this time taken on a train in Siberia, and it had a copy of my book on the table – and I think that’s how the whole thing began.” 

Soon, he says, readers were posting photographs of his books, Pancho and Lefty Ride Out (1995), Passion Play (1999), The Immortal Deed of Michael O’Leary (2015), Begotten Not Made (2018), Second City Trilogy (2019), and now Pancho and Lefty Ride Again (2021) from all across the world.

The front room of the home Creedon shares with his partner Fiona is warm and friendly, filled with books, paintings and an eclectic collection of memorabilia. It’s right next door to the house in which Creedon grew up, the former Inchigeela Dairy, and he says his family has been in “this spaghetti bowl of streets” since the beginning of the last century.

The tea he pours is strong - he says the secret is four tea-bags in a small pot - and the accompanying Christmas cake is delicious. His latest book, Pancho and Lefty Ride Again, has been doing well, he says, and has been critically well received.

“I’ve described it as ‘Digitally remastered, with 11 bonus tracks’,” he says with a laugh. 

“It came about as a result of conversations online about its original incarnation, Panco and Lefty Ride Out, which was published by The Collins Press, over a quarter of a century ago.”

 As a self-described “pathological book-book-giver-away-er”, suffering from “an overpowering compulsion to give away books that I hold most dear”, he soon realised that he didn’t have a copy of the book himself, having long ago gifted away his every copy.

Weighing the notion of a limited-run 25th anniversary edition, he put out the call online, and he had soon amassed a small stack of copies, thanks, he says, to family, friends, and the kindness of strangers.

He says the first person to respond with an offer of a copy of the original was John Breen of Waterstone’s Cork, someone Creedon says is an unsung hero of the Cork literary community.

“John is absolutely tireless in his promotion of Cork writers, and sure enough he was the first out of the traps offering his own personal copy.” 

Creedon says the thought of people carrying his books around the world has cheered him no end, and it has meant a lot to him.

“People are so very kind, without doubt it’s a fun thing, but it’s also a major endorsement of what I’m doing,” he says. “To think that an individual would go to the trouble of photographing my book in some obscure location on the planet and sending it on to me, well, it really is the most endearing form of encouragement.” 

He says that he had been charmed to see the photographs appearing on various social media platforms when a Twitter account, @SignsTheReading, plotted the various photographs on a Google Map entitled : “Books by Cónal Creedon – Where in the World?” 

There are over 300 photos from around the world on the map at the moment, and Creedon says he has another 100 to put on it when he gets a chance.

“And they continue to arrive from places I’ve never been or - more to the point - places I’ve never even heard of.

“Sometimes they seem to be grouped in a theme, and for a while I was getting photographs of my books taken in front of monumental statues, or buildings and structures such as the White House, Buckingham Palace, and the Statue of Liberty,” he says.

“People then began taking photographs of my book on aeroplanes, and a whole series of photos began to appear that were taken onboard ships, another bunch taken trains. 

"For a while there people were taking photographs of my books on mountain tops from as far afield as Australia, Switzerland, New Zealand, America, and even Croagh Patrick.

“One of my more fascinating photos came from the Sea of Cortez – reading my book underwater. That set off a whole series of photos taken in the sea,” he says.

He likens writing to an obsessive compulsive disorder for him - “It’s just something I need to do, then do it again and again”. 

He says that there are times when he questions the validity of his work, and then a photograph of one of his books will arrive “from some place I’ve never heard of or will never visit in my life”, and it lifts his spirits no end.

“Sometimes that’s all the encouragement I need to convince me to keep on going,” he says. 

“I’m very lucky, I get a lot of encouragement, and I experience a lot of support and kindness from people, even walking through town earlier, a few people just instinctively gave me the thumbs up and said things like ‘Keep it up Cónal! Yer doing great’.

Pouring one last cup of tea for the road, he says that kindness from strangers means the world to him, and he says he is very aware that in following his dream, he is in a very privileged place.

“Really, to tell you the truth, there’s no job like it in the world,” he says with a smile.

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