LAFAYETTE, NJ – As far as Max Zimmer of Sparta knew on Sunday afternoon, he was headed with wife, Toni, to a birthday party for a family friend.
Yet when Max arrived at the home of Richard and Cheryl Hughes, it turned out he was the guest of honor.
Little did he know, about 40 of what Richard described were Max's “family, friends, and friends of friends” from around the county, plotted a surprise book signing event for Max, to kick off the celebration of the release of “Journey”, Book One of his trilogy, “If Where You’re Going Isn’t Home”.
And little did the Zimmer’s know, The Alternative Press was invited to report on the event.
Those in attendance at the event represented all walks of life: family, colleagues, and fellow car enthusiasts (Max and friends enjoy kit cars).
“He’s the kind of guy you can see twenty times a year or once a year, and it doesn’t matter,” said Danny Piperato of Max.
“He’s a great guy, you can sit down, and you’ll know that once you start talking to him, he’s a wonderful guy,” another attendee, Dave Betts, reiterated.
Lenny Cuccureddu, who trekked to the event from Bristol, CT, said, “I wouldn’t miss it for the world. Max is a really good guy, sincere, unpretentious.”
Marjorie Woolley, Max’s sister, commented about his talent and the book itself.
“I’m very proud to call him my brother,” said Marjorie. “He’s always had a gift. He’s really worked hard to come where he has.”
Marjorie said she had just finished the book.
“I’m an avid reader,” she said. “It’s the best piece of literature I’ve seen in years. Everyone will be touched; it’s humanity, it’s inspiring.”
Phyllis Hughes, who was a part of the event, on the other hand, said she is not a reader. Yet, she gravitated towards the book.
“I read the book, I picked it up last Sunday, and I couldn’t put it down,” Phyllis said. “I’m not a reader, it held my attention. I was up on Thursday night reading until 1am.”
Of Max’s writing style and the book, she said, “His writing is impeccable. You learn so much. I highly recommend it. There’s something in everyone’s life you can relate to in here, and apply it to your own life.”
As Max and Toni (who is the President of the League of Women Voters of New Jersey) entered and realized the birthday party scheme was all a front, the signs publicizing the surprise event overwhelmed Max, who leaned against the entrance, smiling, and stunned at once.
“This is just a gift,” Max told The Alternative Press. “I’m in total shock. You never know what friendship means until this. There are friends of all parts of my life together.”
Max began writing his book on a daily basis seven years ago.
It is a quasi-autobiographical coming of age story of a young man growing up Mormon in America.
Max’s family relocated to northern Utah from Switzerland at the age of four, his parents, Mormon missionaries.
“This totally unique American religion I wanted to put on the literary map,” Max said. “They’re [Mormons] the sweetest people. They deserve to have their story told. There’s been enough about polygamy and magic underwear. It’s made them [Mormons] peculiar people.”
Max, who is a professional writer had always wanted to write a book, and like Pete Hamill tried to write Brooklyn-themed stories, but did so with difficulty.
“They’ve [those who he sought advice from] always told me to write what you know,” Max said. “For me, it’s always been about being Mormon in America.”The idea for the book started with his move East, after leaving the Mormon life, and divorcing his first wife in 1977. He took a job teaching Fiction Writing at the State University of New York (SUNY) Oswego.
“I felt horrible about the gal I divorced,” Max said. “It was pretty cruel and stupid. I wrote the story to let her know it was not her, but me.”
Max realized the issues focused around the influence of the church, and how they were both reared.
The story did not feel complete to him, and, as he wrote his story, he realized he had to go back further in time by a few years.
And things with the story still did not feel right, and he realized he had to venture even further back on the timeline, until he reached the age of 12 years old.
The story covered the boy’s regimen of entering the Mormon priesthood, as well as his protagonist, Shake Tauffler’s, journey with being excommunicated from the church, and then allowed to return.
From there, a love story eventually developed.
The coming of age tale portrays Shake as a combination of Huck Finn, and James Dean; “a kid who responds to bigotry, abuse, repression, hypocrisy, and death with courage, humor, heartbreak, often pain, and always wonder.”
The entire story is crafted into three books including, “If Where You’re Going Isn’t Home”, and the upcoming books (not yet released), “Of The World”, and “Instrument Of The Lord”.
The book’s hero, Shake was a trumpet player, not a writer like Max, and, in order to understand more about his character, Max took trumpet lessons.
Ed Selby, his real-life trumpet teacher, gave permission to have his last name used, and, the character of “Mr. Selby” was born. Ed created the character sketch for Mr. Selby.
“We made a deal that I get to play Mr. Selby in the movie,” joked Ed.
In relation to his own true story, Max feels he has “gotten a second chance” by meeting wife, Toni. The two were introduced at a business convention in San Diego in 1982.
“He’s just an incredible writer,” Toni said about Max. “He’s just so talented.”
“The book is filled with so many different things,” Toni continued. “It’s got humor and compassion. There’s something in it for everyone, from young people to teenagers to octogenarians. It’s amazing.”
“I’m just really very proud of him that he got to finish the first book, and the second and third will be out,” Toni concluded. “People won’t be disappointed.”
Max Zimmer’s book, “Journey”, Book One of the trilogy, “If Where You’re Going Isn’t Home”, is available on Amazon.com.
Click here for his website.
Click here to purchase the book on Amazon.