NOTE: The Secret History of Twin Peaks is presented by the publisher in old-fashioned collector’s edition format. It truly is a beautifully rendered book from a purely physical standpoint. I took a picture below of the book and its dust jacket on the “David Lynch” floors of the house we purchased in June…purchased mainly because we instantly fell in love with those floors!
Content-wise, the book is built for fans. If you are a novice to Twin Peaks, this is not where you should start. Watch the original series, then read this for some twisted back-story that will shade the colors of your perspective on what you just watched.
And now for the review…
Late in the game of Mark Frost’s fevered construction, Doug Milford (a retired Man in Black?) reveals to his protegé (the author of the dossier being reviewed by an unidentified FBI agent who has presented this “book” to us) that all that spooky weird stuff going on up there in the woods had revealed to him the mother of all others. In a way, Twin Peaks was always about “the others” – the lost souls, the tormented demons both internal and external, the abused, the forgotten, the forlorn, the troubled teens, the Log Ladies…all those spirits whispering in the wind blowing through the sycamore trees and whose sad tales found equal release in the hoots of owls as they did in the sad-sack songs of dreary-eyed chanteuses at The Road House.
In demented fashion, Mark Frost, the co-creator of Twin Peaks (along with the more shamanistically revered David Lynch) has taken a comical character, Doug Milford – the supposedly dumb, rich brother of the town’s eternal mayor who falls victim to a comely little gold-digger played by Robyn Lively – from the marginalia of the series and puts him at center stage (or is it off-stage?) of human kind’s grandest conspiracy. With all of its governmental black-ops mumbo-jumbo, UFO chasing, conspiracy laden clap-trap horse pucky that links together everything from the mysterious death of Merryweather Lewis (I had to google this after reading – and indeed, his death is a mystery to this day) to the rise of L. Ron Hubbard to the impeachment of Richard Nixon, The Secret History of Twin Peaks is at times head-scratching stuff. It reads more like a lost story-arc of The X-Files, which I suppose is fitting, as the creative milieu Twin Peaks engendered on the small screen lead to The X-Files taking flight and soaring in the shadows only to become fatally dated and twee (its forgettable revival last year hopefully not a harbinger of what the Twin Peaks revival will be). But I digress…much like Frost does for close to 350 pages of newspaper clippings, classified reports, diary entries, typed and handwritten notes that eventually reveal delightful little morsels for long-time fans of the series salivating at the prospect of the Showtime revival due in 2017.
Questions are indeed answered (though more are asked). We finally learn the fates of those present at the bank bombing in the second season finale. We get hints about what happened to Agent Cooper. But more importantly we get leisurely flashback notes full of romance, intrigue and mystery that shed new detailed light on Dr. Jacoby…Big Ed, Nadine and Norma…Catherine and Pete…Andrew and Josie…and how the Briggs and Palmer families came to town. All of it culminating in the tragic murder of Laura Palmer, a singular action that cast spotlights on the seamy underbelly of the idyllic town and mirrored the cultural and societal anxieties of paranoid Baby Boombers unsettled by their own success and wondering when all that black soul-sucking ooze was going to come bubbling up to the surface and drown them…or kill their children.
MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD – READ WITH CAUTION
The central mystery of Frost’s book is two-fold: who put together this dossier, and who is the new FBI agent assigned by Gordon Cole to “decode” it? Oh, yeah…and to what end?
Well, I, for one, was surprised (but then not surprised) to find Major Briggs was the author (at various times I thought it could be Cooper or Diane or Albert Rosenfield). Frost shines greater light on someone who was increasingly becoming a pivotal piece in the Cooper-centric story the series told, and in doing this we get some brilliant glimpses of where Frost would’ve wanted to take the series had ABC not axed the show after that shocking second season finale. Clearly Frost would’ve beat X-Files to the punch on all the alien/governmental conspiracy nonsense that plagued entertainment at the turn of the Millenium…and all those pioneering internet chat-room theorists who popped up after Twin Peaks expired and mused on it “being about two alien races vying for the souls of the town’s inhabitants” were, well, kinda right.
But does David Lynch give a damn about any of this? Frost’s obsession over alien abduction accounts does fall in line with one theory popular in some psychological circles that abductees are sexual abuse victims and the aliens are the cover memories for the true trauma (often perpetrated by family members). This line of thought would bring us back into Lynchland and straight to Laura and Leland Palmer. Are the agents of the White and Black Lodges and that mysterious Red Room fantasies conjured to help Laura and others come to terms with the pure horror of a father systematically sexually abusing and then murdering his teenage daughter?
In winking fashion, Frost reveals on the last page the name of the FBI Agent assigned to investigate Major Brigg’s sprawling dossier: Special Agent Tamara Preston, who in grand conspiracy theorist fashion has the same initials as the town she’s about to enter. And thus we dive down the rabbit hole of what is perhaps Lynch’s favorite dark fairy-tale trope: A Woman in Trouble.
I don’t feel Lynch ever cared much for the conspiracy details Frost so luxuriates in. Indeed, if this book proves anything, it’s that Frost was behind all the mythology stuff, and in Lynch he found the perfect partner with which to transmit the madness in its most elemental forms. Lynch is about the mood. The emotion. That dark magic of watching a troubled woman fall deeper into a mystery on a flickering screen.
Who is Tamara Preston? What trouble will she find in Twin Peaks? And more importantly what kind of pie is on special at the Double R Diner?
Tune in next year, my friends. New Owl Channel. New Owl Time. And enjoy once again those ceremonial doughnuts and cups of coffee as you settle in with an old friend…the mother of all others…
My favorite bits of insane (I dare you too google it!) minutiae found within the Frosty pages:
- Woody Harrleson’s estranged father was a mob hitman named Charles Harreslon who, before dying in prison, confessed to the killing of JFK!!!
- Apparently Richard Nixon and Jackie Gleason (yes, of The Honeymooners!) were BFF’s and on one weird occasion Nixon took Gleason to a secret lab where he showed him an alien survivor of a UFO crash landing!!!
What were your favorite tidbits?
And who do you think will be playing Tamara Preston in the new series?
Share your thoughts and theories in the comments section!
Written by David H. Schleicher