As a reporter, I’ve gotten to meet many interesting people. Sometimes we become friends. That’s what happened several years ago when I covered Robert Zinnecker’s book signing event at the Alpha & Omega Parable Book Store for The Good News Magazine. After interviewing him, I was intrigued by his background as a telecom executive and the general plot of his first book, Acquisition. I purchased my signed copy and became a fan.
Zinnecker had just published the first of what was to be a trilogy. In book one, Acquisition, his principle character, Wilson McCann escapes his life as CEO of Dynacom, which had just been gobbled up by a telecom giant. He moves to the country to rescue his dead uncle’s debt-ridden farm, but soon encounters women from his past who want to be part of his future. Not only that, old associates seek to bring him back into the telecom industry, while new friends urge him to seek God’s plan for his life.
In his second book, Sell Out, McCann is hounded by venture capitalists seeking to sell his company, and a vindictive hedge fund investor who will use any means to gain control of McCann’s property. At the same time, he falls in love with a woman who demands more commitment than he may want to make. He comes face to face with the need to commit to his new company, a beautiful woman who cares for him, and most importantly, his faith in Christ.
Zinnecker describes the third book, The Investment, as a “modern-day Job story.” Everything that can go wrong in McCann’s life does. What happens when bad things happen to “God’s man’? Will he rise to the occasion? Will he find the answers he seeks?
Zinnecker pours much of his own life in his books. A 55-year veteran on the telecommunications industry, he managed operations for CONTEL Corporation in five states. And, like McCann, he was involved in acquisitions of other companies. In 1983 he came to New York as President of CONTEL of New York. In 1991m GTE acquired CONTEL, and Zinnecker became President of the New York State Telecommunications Association. He retired in 1991, and opened a small consulting company. In June of 2013, he was inducted into the New York State Telecommunications Association’s Hall of Fame.
Even McCann’s name has a connection to the younger Zinnecker. He chuckled, recalling his younger years when, with his buddies, he would tell girls he met when out of town that his name was Wilson McCann. The ruse worked well until another friend he was with one evening told the girl he was talking to that his name was Wilson McCann. “That’s what the other guy said,” the girl noted.
I asked Zinnecker (a.k.a. McCann) if the trilogy had an overriding theme.
“Acquisitions is about making the greatest acquisition you could make. During my career, I saw different kinds of people. Some were searching to acquire power, position, prestige, money, a nice home, etc. …The greatest acquisition in my life is my faith in Jesus Christ. I tried to portray a man who had been active in the acquisition process, knew how it worked, and yet he hadn’t found what was the most important thing to acquire That was the first book.
“In the second book, Sell Out, he hasn’t really sold out to the faith he had acquired, his company, or the beautiful woman who cares for him. He hasn’t done what Jesus said — to love the Lord your God with all your heart, strength, and mind. I had been teaching a book in Sunday school class about Dr. John Wesley’s doctrine about perfection, so I wove that into it. I think the concept of “selling out” means giving your all to those who love you and in situations you find yourself. Some of my readers thought the title meant selling the company, but it was more about “selling out” to your faith, family and work.
“The Investment is a modern-day Job story. The guy supposedly has it all. He’s got a beautiful wife, he’s got a son, he’s got a company. Now all these problems occur. How does he deal with them? As he faces losing his company, his wife and his health, can he say, with Job, ‘Though He slay me, yet will I trust him?’”
As a reader, I found Wilson McCann fascinating, along with the other characters in his books. They seemed very real, and according to Zinnecker, were based on real people he has known — with appropriate alterations to protect identities.
It is in his fourth book, Tolliver, where another side of Zinnecker emerges. Set in the West in the 1870’s, we follow Kit Tolliver, a man with a cold heart toward God, as he rides into Starbuck Valley. He becomes embroiled in a range war, the love of two women, and making peace with his dark past. Although this book is a Western, it draws from other aspects of Zinnecker’s life. For starters, he is a great fan of that genre.
“I love Westerns. I grew up in the time when you could go to the movies for 12 cents, and Friday evenings were usually Westerns. Some movies had a matinee on Saturday afternoon.”
Zinnecker ticked off names of great Western heroes, such as Roy Rogers and Gene Autry. Characters like Shane fascinated him because they were good guys who rode off into the sunset, never having given up their hard life.
“I thought I could write a book about that kind of guy — a good man, with no room for God in his life, who dispenses justice from the barrel of a gun. But he’s not found Christ.”
When I asked about the research needed to write about the mid-nineteenth century West, I discovered that once again, Zinnecker filled Tolliver with slices of his life. He grew up on a farm, and his father was a horseman.
“In the 40’s, when I was growing up, a man would be judged pretty much by his team of horses, especially in a farm community. We had a horse just like Tolliver’s “Boots.” He was a watch-eyed pinto. He ground reined. He neck reined.” (The rider would drop the reins onto the ground and the horse knew not to move. Likewise, the horse would step forward through different paces as the rider raised the reins along its neck.)
“I learned a lot about horses just by watching my father and the other farmers. Of course, a western horse is a little different than a farm horse.” (Really? I thought a horse was a horse was a horse.)
Fortunately, Tolliver may not be a stand-alone book. Zinnecker has begun work on a prequel and some have suggested ideas for a sequel.
In addition to novels, Zinnecker has written articles for trade magazines in the telecom industry as well as devotionals (short reflective pieces based on various Bible verses or life experiences) that have appeared in periodicals like The Upper Room.
He spoke of a particular devotional he wrote based on his decision to cling to life when fighting a rare form of cancer in 1982. He had about given up, when a nurse, who had seemed coldly professional, sat with him in his darkest hour and encouraged him to live for his family.
“In my mind, she was one of God’s angels. So I wrote a devotional for The Upper Room about that experience. I’ve written that same devotional for other things. It seems to get a good reaction.”
Writers are curious about writing practices of other writers. Zinnecker is definitely a “pantser.” He goes with the flow, and writes when and as the Spirit moves him. Some days he doesn’t write at all. Yet, like all writers, plot ideas constantly swirl in his head. His characters form and re-form, interact, and behave like people he has known.
If you would like to meet Wilson McCann, this is the perfect time. Zinnecker’s first book, Acquisitions, is currently free on Kindle at Amazon. Download it and become a fan too. You can learn more at his website at https://zcspublications.com/