Mark Frost, co-creator and executive producer (alongside David Lynch) of the legendary series Twin Peaks, has been teasing the book The Secret History of Twin Peaks for a while now. When it was first announced a few months ago I, like many Twin Peaks fans I'm sure, promptly per-ordered it to find out the fate of the characters and delve deeper into the world. Well I waited with bated breath to receive my copy and it was delivered a week ago. I read it between my other commitments and I finally finished reading it yesterday and these are my thoughts. I won't spoil it for you so please be aware that this is spoiler free territory.
First of all I should state that rather than a novel this is a beautifully produced dossier of faux historical documents, newspaper clippings and articles, revealing a series of historical events and conspiracies about the town of Twin Peaks and the Washington area over a period of over 200 years. For those expecting a more linear narrative this may prove to be disappointing as I know fans are looking for detailed account of what happened to the characters after the events of the cliffhanger in season 2. However what this dossier does provide is immersive and rich resources which are clearly designed to show how paranormal activity has been surrounding Twin Peaks for hundreds of years; this deepens and broadens the scope of the series and gives the events of the series much more context.
The book starts off with a letter from FBI Deputy Director Gordon Cole, who was played by Lynch in the original TV series, asking an agent to go over the contents of a box found at a crime scene that “appears to have a relationship to an investigation conducted in northwest Washington State many moons ago.”
The mysterious Archivist, who produced the dossier contained inside the box, has been carrying out research on strange phenomena and the history of Twin Peaks. The dossier starts with the taking of the land that would become Twin Peaks from the indigenous Indians and moves over to prospector gold rush times to the rise of the logging mills at the turn of the 20th century. It then moves into X-Files territory with reports throughout concerning Roswell, UFOs, Nixon, the Freemasons, the Illuminati, Project Blue Book, the Majestic 12, Alistair Crowley, L. Ron Hubbard, Jack Parsons... and Jackie Gleeson (of Honeymooners fame). All pretty heavy stuff full of intrigue and mystery but probably not what fans of the series were expecting when they purchased this novel.
The dossier provides the history of a few of the prominent families and individuals and it does reveal the fates of a few of Twin Peaks character's from the cliffhanger in season 2 but the majority of this patchwork dossier focuses on the relatively obscure character of Mayor Milford's brother Douglas, who emerges as the closest thing to a 'lead'. This proves to be a little disorientating but I have found it incredibly enthralling and have been carrying out research on the prospectors of the time, D.B. Cooper and Project Blue Book. The last time a TV series made me do this was Lost or even Evangelion, so that is high praise indeed! The book is similar in style to House Of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski, not in content or style but the feelings it evokes... A sense of mystery and unease, very much like the show itself.
The book doesn't initially seem to give too much away about the mysteries of Twin Peaks as I'm sure they're leaving that up to the upcoming season 3 but I think that the book merits repeat readings as I feel that throughout there were hidden meanings and secrets waiting to be discovered. The plethora of diagrams, photographs and sketches draw you in and make the whole dossier feel 'real'.
Overall I'd say the book was not what I expected but it took me on a journey that was both strange and wonderful. There are a lot of profound truths about the human condition contained within and there were moments of revelation that left me questioning our place in this world.
Well worth a read with a cup of coffee and a piece of cherry pie!