Pictures of Marlene

Pictures of Marlene is a novel in the literary genre, 89,000 words long. I am currently seeking agent representation.


Howie Toffler is a 14-year-old boy who becomes ensnared in the world of sexual imagery. It is a tale of obsession and delusion.

It is 1987, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. After a snowstorm, Howie and his friend Adam build a quinzhee, a type of snow house like an igloo. Once inside, Adam produces a Playboy from his backpack. They stash it there in the snow, and Howie goes there often throughout the winter to peruse the exciting pictures by candlelight. When the quinzhee melts in spring, Howie brings the magazine indoors and stashes it under the bed. So begins his close, dependent relationship with the naked women of the glossy pages, and the pleasurable feelings that provide an escape.

Howie’s favorite centerfold is Marlene—a sultry, shapely blond. Her images are everything to Howie. She brings him to a world of imagined bliss, a place he believes he can make his world similar to, if he takes certain steps. When he spots a woman in a department store he believes is Marlene, he sees an opportunity to cross over into a kind of paradise. Transfixed, he follows her to the parking lot, notes her license plate number. Resourceful and crazed, Howie locates her address. He goes to her house, ingratiates himself into her life, as a lawn-mower and chore boy—but it’s based on lies and deceit.

This woman calls herself Joanne D’Agistino, and says she is a lonely divorcee, with an estranged daughter. Howie is determined to reveal her secret—that she is Marlene, the centerfold. If he can do this, all his pains will be eased. His destiny will be fulfilled. But his entanglement with Joanne becomes dangerous when she uses him to reach out her troubled daughter, who lives with a violent drug-dealer. Joanne manipulates and deceives Howie, giving him gifts, making him promises. It is a game of mutual deception—each trying to meet their own needs, which are tragically at odds.