Book Review: THE SECRET HISTORY OF TWIN PEAKS

Meredith and Evan discuss the latest piece of the TWIN PEAKS puzzle.

Evan: We’re here to discuss Mark Frost’s new book The Secret History of Twin Peaks, a tome that comes in the form of a dossier compiling - as the title indicates - the entirety of Twin Peak’s wacky history, aided by two different sets of running annotations. Meredith, would you like to add anything to that very long description?

Meredith: I think that’s a pretty fair description. I’d add that the book itself is a very attractive multi-media hodgepodge, with Xeroxed manila folders and sticky notes, arrest reports, book covers, photos and sketches and maps and newspaper clippings. It’s so much fun to look at, even before you get into reading it. You listened to the audiobook, right?

E: Yeah, I think it was a mistake. The interrupting nature of the two annotators made for a clunky listening experience, despite the top-notch voice cast.

M: I listened to it a bit but then quickly switched over to the book itself. The annotations are much more organic and actually kind of fun in written form. Let’s talk about who the annotators are! One is a present day FBI agent with the initials T_ P_. The rest of her name has been redacted. I admit to finding it compelling that her initials are TP and we know nothing else about her. It’s such an easy gag, giving her the initials of the town and show itself, but it makes her feel as of a piece with Twin Peaks as Dale Cooper was.

E: Do you think we will meet her on the show?

M: Wouldn’t that be cool? I’m already a fan. She’s a great yin to Coop’s yang. She’s very cynical and by the books, until the supernatural evidence starts mounting. A quick perusal of the show’s IMDb doesn’t show any characters with the initials TP, but most of the new cast of characters aren’t named online yet. There is a new FBI agent character played by Kate Romero, named Shari Skadden, and she’s credited in the first episode, so maybe TP is an alias. And then there’s the Archivist.

E: Right. The documents we read belong to our second annotator, the Archivist, whose identity provides the book with its central mystery and TP's primary task. I have to admit, I got a little misty when we learned who this was.

M: It’s a really good reveal. I think what’s most impressive about The Secret History of Twin Peaks is how the whole thing fits into the larger Twin Peaks narrative. Truthfully, I’m always a little fuzzy on the second season of Twin Peaks because I’ve watched it so much more rarely than I watch Season One, but a little time refreshing myself on Wikipedia clarified that so many of the mysteries seemingly launched in the book were actually founded in the latter half of the show. It feels like Mark Frost has been working on this, in some form or other, since the show went off the air in 1991. Stuff that felt like throwaway, unsolvable mysteries at the time all sort of fits together within the Archivist’s dossier.

E: It is an interesting addition to the Peaks mythos, for sure. Not quite invaluable, but not some novelty either. You learn things fans have been eager to know about (the aftermath of that big bank explosion, for instance), but for the most part it works to solidify familiar characters in ways the show could not. When it's talking about characters we actually know, that is.

Perhaps the book's biggest surprise is how much it focuses on Douglas Milford, a somewhat comical character on the show. Most of the history we discover stems from his involvement. I wonder if a Season Two rewatch with gel at all with what we now know about the character.

M: The little bit of reading I did to remind myself about Season Two gels a tiny bit. He’s such a goofy guy on the show, but he does have this long history with the Twin Peaks newspaper that makes him a central figure in the town, if not at all central to the Laura Palmer mystery.

E: What did you think of how far away from Twin Peaks this got? Nixon is one thing, but I found myself a bit taken aback when L. Ron Hubbard shows up. The whole Lewis and Clark adventure opening the book often made me forget I was reading anything Twin Peaks related at all.

M: I liked that a lot. The Lewis and Clark stuff was very cool and surprising, and once we got into Hubbard and Jack Parsons, two figures I’ve always found super fascinating (read Strange Angel, everyone!), I was all in. It gives a really unusual context to the mystery of Twin Peaks. On the basis of the show and Fire Walk with Me alone, all of the various enigma almost seems to be an annoying coincidence, like how much weird stuff can really happen in one town? But once you start factoring in alien invasion, Bigfoot, Scientology and the occult, you realize that Laura Palmer and the Bookhouse Boys’ case files are just part of a generations-spanning and very weird whole. Twin Peaks is on a hellmouth, basically.

E: Don't forget the giant owls! They were my favorite.

M: Yes! I’m going to loan you the book next time I see you so you can flip through. The owl on the cover alone is so strangely compelling. I can’t stop staring at it.

E: I was disappointed no mention was made of the White Lodge or the broader source the White Lodge represents in Twin Peaks. I love the idea that there is a benevolent side to all this weirdness, but neither the book nor the show get into it much.

M: That’s a really good point, and something I hadn’t thought of much. And since this book is meant to be a lead-in into the revival, I bet we won’t see much of it there, either.

E: I don't think the book offers any strong indication of what we can expect from the upcoming series. Emotionally, it seems far more interested in giving several Peaks characters (Log Lady, Hank, Josie, Briggs and a number of others) a bit more flesh and pathos than they received in the show. As the title indicates, it's filling in history rather than leaning into the future. 

M: Yeah, I loved all of that. Especially the stuff with Hank, Big Ed, Nadine and Norma - it really deepens those relationships to learn how they were first established, and seeing it all through Cooper’s eyes as he’s introducing himself to the Double R diner felt about as Twin Peaks as it gets. We even get a peek at the Double R menu! And hearing that supernatural story from the Log Lady’s childhood gave her whole silly persona so much credence and solemnity.

E: While the Milford history stuff is great, those Peaks characters are where the book gets its primary value. As such I recommend it for the curious and will even go far enough to call it a vital piece of the Twin Peaks puzzle, if only on an emotional level.

M: Absolutely. And I believe the consensus between Evan and me is: go hardback. Audio and e-book versions have no place here. Cracking open this book feels just like someone sent a mysterious package to your house and it’s your job to trace its origin.

E: I totally agree and can't wait to borrow Meredith's copy.

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