Pop Cult Book Club Review – The Secret History of Twin Peaks

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The Secret History of Twin Peaks by Mark Frost
(2016, Flatiron Books)

twinpeaks history

Almost forgotten in the hype and cult following of the early 1990s television series Twin Peaks is co-creator Mark Frost. I, like many other, only really bring up David Lynch’s name in association with the short-lived phenomenon. But that does a great disservice to Mr. Frost who was just as an essential component of Twin Peaks as Lynch. While Lynch provided the style, atmosphere, and general tone of the show, Frost pushed for mythology building and concrete plotting. Without both, Twin Peaks would not have struck such a chord with audiences of the time and continue to resonant with new viewers. Mark Frost wrote this tome that doesn’t serve to bridge the 25-year divide between iterations of Twin Peaks but rather acts as a supplement to the original run with some hints peppered in about where season 3 may be going.

Don’t get your hopes up to have 1992 through 2016 in Twin Peaks covered. There are two distinct moments where we get the fates of a couple characters revealed, but nothing that would spoil or even set up where the third season will be starting. That’s totally fine, and the book is still an entertaining piece of metafiction. The premise is that a lockbox of historical papers and writings has been recovered by the FBI from an undisclosed crime scene. Gordon Cole (the hearing impaired supervisor of Agent Cooper) pens an introduction letter to an unnamed FBI agent who is tasked with making an inventory of and analyzing the material. Someone referring to themselves as The Archivist is responsible for this assembly and the main text is accompanied by footnotes from The Archivist and the FBI agent.

So what does Mark Frost divulge about the inhabitants of Twin Peak? He chooses to focus on a small handful of tertiary characters, for the most part, mainly Andrew Packard and Douglas Milford. If you’re scratching your head about who these two are it’s understandable. Packard was the returned from the dead husband of Josie and Milford was the newspaper-owning brother of Twin Peaks’ octogenarian mayor. Pretty obscure but I suspect in need to not cover any territory the show plans to, Frost took the safe bet with these figures. However, we do get the prominent development of The Log Lady and Major Briggs. The Log Lady, in particular, is the focus of an op-ed by Dr. Jacoby’s brother, Robert, where he seeks to tell the citizenry that they habitually mock a woman with a tragic past who is an outstanding member of the community.

Beyond that, the mythology of the world is very subtly built out with pieces that directly take place in Twin Peaks and some that are thousands of miles away and only tie in thematically. Early in the book, we have a guest story written up in the Twin Peaks Gazette by a young Eagle Scout Andrew Packard where he details his troop’s bizarre experience in the woods outside of town on a camping trip. A similar story is shared by Douglas Milford about an encounter with a strange giant, who later reports attempt to correlate with Bigfoot, and an owl the size of a man.

The book starts as far back as the expedition of Lewis and Clark and their encounter with a Nez Perce tribe that refers to a place of the spirits that lies in the valley between two mountains. Frost ties in the conspiracy addled death of Meriwether Lewis and in this version he was wearing a ring bearing the sigil of an owl when found. Frost goes on to link in the Roswell Crash, UFO sightings in the 1950s in the Pacific Northwest, Richard Nixon, Jack Parson and the Church of Thelema, L. Ron Hubbard, and more into the twisted tapestry of Twin Peaks. Some moments get quite a bit off track, and I found myself wondering what this has to do with Twin Peaks. But the esoteric nature is very much in tune with the sort of thinking characters like Agent Cooper exhibited throughout the series.

One of the creepier moments happens just after the story of Lewis and Clark is wrapped up. In a small, almost forgettable vignette, the fragmented journal of a Gold Rush-era miner is presented. He talks about him and his partner coming upon a cave, referred to by the indigenous people as “Owl Cave”. His partner disappears, and footnotes reveal that it is believed the author of this journal was murdered. His vanished partner’s name was Robert (BOB?).

The Secret History of Twin Peaks is book that a new fan of the show will likely not get much from. But if you have been a long time fan and want to get lost in the strange, confusing and mysterious world of conspiracy theories and Frost’s point of view of the series, this is a pretty fun read.

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