david wilson for the boston globe

Lou Cove was 12 years old in 1978 when his family moved to Salem. It wasn’t the easiest adjustment. “I felt like such a fish out of water, coming from New York City to this city that was focused on witches and its old history,” Cove said. “It seemed like there was a cemetery everywhere I walked.”

Lonely and bored, he was ready for an adventure. When his father’s friend Howie showed up needing help on a quest, Cove was ready. What Howie wanted was to be Playgirl magazine’s Man of the Year. He’d already been featured as a centerfold.

“Not only is he naked, completely naked — all the centerfolds were fully naked — but he was the first man to pose in Playgirl at full mast,” Cove said. “When he did that, it was actually pretty controversial.”


Despite growing up in a household with progressive attitudes toward sex, Cove hadn’t heard of Playgirl before, but he was immediately taken with Howie and his wife, Carly. “He was just cool; he dressed cool; he was the real deal,” Cove said of Howie, with whom he’s still close friends. “He was funny, he was smart, he was political.”

In “Man of the Year,” Cove, who lives in Amherst, describes his enthusiastic participation in Howie’s campaign. Looking back, Cove now realizes Howie was helping him as much as he was helping Howie. “Taking me around Salem and putting up posters, lobbying the girls at Dunkin’ Donuts and the kids in my class, and my grandmother’s friends, old bubbies in their living room, that was a way of keeping me busy,” he said. “For me it was the most important campaign in American history.”

Cove will read 7 p.m. Thursday at Brookline Booksmith.

Kate Tuttle, president of the National Book Critics Circle, can be reached at kate.tuttle@gmail.com.