Book Review: The Secret History of Twin Peaks – Mark Frost

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Since Twin Peaks’ finale in June 1991, and sometimes even before that, certain layers had been added (or peeled back to reveal) new mysteries surrounding the world of Twin Peaks. I am talking of things like The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer, written by David Lynch’s daughter Jennifer Lynch, or Fire Walk With Me – the initially panned film that explored the last week of Laura Palmer’s life, and even My Life, My Tapes, Agent Cooper’s backstory in the form of anecdotal voice recordings. None of these have actually managed to clear anything up, nor – I imagine  – was their intention.

The Secret History of Twin Peaks, however, manages somehow to do both. At the same time that a lot of things, and their origins, are becoming clear(er), things are happening parallel to these events and explanations that actively create new questions. We know, sort of, where the jade ring came from, but why was Nixon wearing it? And what does this have to do with Roswell? If you know anything about Twin Peaks I’m sure you wouldn’t head in to this book expecting everything laid out in front of you, dumbed down, ready to be ingested. Mark Frost himself noted that apparent discrepancies and inconsistencies between the new book and the show’s timeline, are in fact clues, or ‘mistakes’ made at the hands of he who compiled the dossier, and that there is indeed something to it.

Oh, yes the dossier. The FBI, and law enforcement in general, play an integral part in Twin Peaks so it should come as no surprise that Frost’s new novel is written in epistolary form, the narrator being FBI agent Tamara Pretson (who I’m willing to bet is a character in the upcoming series, perhaps Naomi Watts’ role?). Tamara Preston, or T.P, is given an assignment from the now Deputy Director Gordon Cole (my socks are on fire!) which is to comb through this dossier left at a crime scene and try and find out who wrote it and why. All we know to begin with is that the writer calls himself simply The Archivist. The main purpose of the dossier, it appears, is to keep record and find out a bit more about the town of Twin Peaks, it’s history and surroundings, with an emphasis on the strange things that happen around the town, and in the woods in particular.

Throughout we learn all kinds of new and interesting information, the full story of Ed, Norma, and Nadine, written by Deputy Hawk, the very important history of the Milford brothers, and even what became of Hank Jennings. It goes in to a lot more detail about the whole ‘mill’ fiasco, but serves only to muddy the story further as it appears to be one of the most glaringly obvious inconsistencies. Mark Frost is a smart dude, though, and I am confident in the fact that it was all intentional and will be (somewhat) explained as we are watching the new series. Perhaps someone, aside from the archivist, has maliciously messed with the dossier? When reading I got so swept away in the mythology that I had to remind myself that nothing is as it seems. In the book itself, a point Frost reiterated during a recent Reddit AMA, they make a clear distinction between the words “secret” and “mystery”, hinting at something deeper to do with the book’s title.

Even, to my surprise, we got a little bit of extra Peaks ‘content’ at the end, as the last entry was written in ‘real-time’ and actually takes place just after the events of the show. I won’t spoil it for anyone, but the end of the book is almost as spooky and pertinent as the end of the show. It could easily serve as part of the foundation for the new series.

The book itself is beautiful. Even the feel. The materials make you feel like you are reading something special, and real. The fact that a lot of the events reflected in the book actually took place in history helps with the immersion, and often I truly felt like an agent trying to figure out what the hell is going on. If you didn’t know any better it might serve as an astounding piece of historical journalism, and I’d believe it such are Frost’s skills. The way he weaves true history in to Peaks mythology is wizardry. The care and meticulousness put in to actually putting the book together is palpable, all the secret documents, journal entries, and newspaper clippings (to name a few) all feel authentic and real.

This the perfect addition to any Twin Peaks fan’s collection, and I would argue that it is an essential – ‘the owls are not what they seem’takes on a whole new meaning. Mark Frost has heavily hinted at another similar book to be released soon, rumoured to be detailing the lives of those living in the Twin Peaks universe from 1991- 2016. If it is anything like this book, and I imagine it will be, it’ll be a release-day grab for me definitely. I still don’t know who BOB is, or how Annie’s doing, but Frost’s talents for writing are such that I don’t even mind that this book created more questions than answers. It’s a hard thing to explain to someone who hasn’t read it, but it gives you a lot more food for thought on (some of) the more ambiguous parts of the show, while still keeping with the original mystery. I shall leave with some words of the great Agent Dale Cooper: “Every day, once a day, give yourself a present. Don’t plan it. Don’t wait for it. Just let it happen. It could be a new shirt at the men’s store, a catnap in your office chair, or two cups of good, hot black coffee.”  – Make today’s gift the Secret History of Twin Peaks.

 

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