A Place Both Wonderful and Strange
(Please note this is for those who’ve read the book. Spoilers and in-depth discussion abound).
The publication of The Secret History of Twin Peaks, written by series co-creator Mark Frost, offers the first genuinely new glimpse into the world of the show since 1992, when prequel Fire Walk With Me opened in theaters. That film’s notorious deleted scenes — almost another entire movie’s worth — were finally released in 2014 as the Missing Pieces, part of the Twin Peaks: The Entire Mystery Blu-ray box set, and provided the first hint that there may still be some life in this blue-lipped corpse, after all.
The suspicion was confirmed later that year, with Showtime’s announcement that a new season of Twin Peaks would be entering production, all episodes written by Mark Frost and David Lynch and directed by Lynch himself. Also announced at that time was a book, to be penned by Frost, intended to cover the 25 years between the end of the original series and the start of the new season. It would fill in the gaps, catch us up on the many dangling fates of the numerous characters, and set the stage for Showtime’s new iteration.
This is not that book.
It’s unclear if Frost changed his mind about the direction of the novel, or if in reality most of the advance description was largely hype written by a publicist. But either way, those reading the book for a thorough follow-up on the show’s controversial finale are bound to be disappointed.
However, what Mark Frost has actually done is much better. Instead of writing a book to simply fill various narrative holes between the older and newer incarnations of Twin Peaks — arguably more the job of the approaching season, which has to exist independently from any tie-in novels — Frost has chosen to create something which is itself a mystery, more or less offering the literary equivalent of watching an episode of the show.
Constructed as an epistolary novel, The Secret History of Twin Peaks operates on several narrative levels. The first is that of a secret dossier of collected historical documents, ranging from diary entries to newspaper articles to classified files, apparently retrieved from an unspecified crime scene. The second involves the Archivist, the mysterious figure who created this dossier in the first place, and who adds their own notes and observations throughout. The third is the voice of Tamara Preston, an FBI agent assigned by Gordon Cole to investigate these files and determine the identity and motives of the Archivist. Her many notes and fact-checks pepper the work, sometimes catching details the Archivist may have missed.
Given the twisty narratives and multiple realities which define Twin Peaks as a whole, this structure couldn’t be more appropriate. Though the series never operated on quite the wink-wink nudge-nudge level of something like 30 Rock, it’s always been astutely self-aware, and allowing several separate-but-connected levels of narrative and meta-narrative to carry the story proves a brilliant stroke. (It seems not coincidental that Agent Preston, here the stand-in for the viewer carried away by mystery and intrigue, shares her initials with the series).
What Mark Frost offers through this book is, ultimately, a deep dive into the background mythology of the series, one which famously combined science fiction, the supernatural, and the mystical into a surreal playground of ideas and references. To be perfectly frank, for those not as invested in that aspect of the show, the novel might prove confusing, bizarre, and even tedious. But for those who obsess over the stranger elements of the series, this is what we’ve been waiting for.
There has never been as complex an investigation into the otherworldly mysteries of Twin Peaks as this book. Frost incorporates nearly everything from both the show and the movie, pulls in various related concepts from history and pop culture, and adds his own brand new ideas, creating a rabbit hole for the reader to fall into. Even when the series was still airing, he had always intended to write a novel documenting the history of the town and the forces which inhabit it, going as far back as the creation of the titular mountains. While this book doesn’t quite make that large a leap into the past, it does begin with the Lewis and Clark expedition, no small narrative ambition there.
The story hints at the passing of the jade Lodge ring from the Nez Perce tribe to Meriwether Lewis, eventually making its way to infamous occultist Jack Parsons and finally Richard Nixon. It’s unclear if this is the same ring that winds up on the finger of the doomed Teresa Banks, or if there are multiple rings at play, but in any case it seems to bring with it both strange power and ill fortune. However, the Lodge ring figures mostly in the background, with the foreground populated largely by various strands culled from UFO mythology and modern conspiracy theories.
In his previous novels The List of 7 and The 6 Messiahs, Frost proved adept at combining historical fact, conspiratorial speculation, and occult lore. He goes one further here, painting a completely paranoid and secretive world where the very definition of reality is always up for grabs.
Our entry point into these many mysteries is Mayor Milford’s brother Douglas, who died after appearing in just a few episodes during season two. Apparently Dougie is the Bill Mulder of Twin Peaks, a government insider investigating related strains of supernatural phenomena and trying to fit the many pieces together. Witnessing everything from the mysterious owls of Ghostwood Forest to the Roswell crash to Richard Nixon’s fall from grace, Milford is revealed to be the reason Project Blue Book sets up shop in Twin Peaks, both to continue searching outer space for signs of extraterrestrial life and also to monitor the surrounding woods for unusual activity.
Some fans are likely to feel all of this belongs more in an X Files episode than Twin Peaks, but it’s important to note two things. First, Twin Peaks is a progenitor of The X Files. Creator Chris Carter has famously cited the former series as an inspiration, there’s a Twin Peaks nod or two in early episodes, and before becoming Fox Mulder, David Duchovny found a very memorable start on Twin Peaks as trans DEA agent Denise Bryson. There is countless overlap between the two series, from actors to storylines to overarching themes. It is absolutely fair game for Frost to (perhaps intentionally, perhaps not) circle back to some of the things he helped influence.
Secondly, Twin Peaks trafficked in these very ideas during season two, well in advance of The X Files and the many other shows which have covered similar territory. There is an unfortunate bit of faux narrative that the more over-the-top supernatural elements of Twin Peaks were imposed by the show’s other writers during stretches when Lynch and Frost weren’t as involved. (Lynch missed out on certain portions of the early development of the second season due to the rushed post-production schedule for Wild At Heart, and he drifted again mid-season when he disagreed with the decision to reveal Laura’s killer. Around that same time, Frost was preparing to embark on his directorial debut with the movie Storyville. Both of them refocused on the show during its final stretch). The Secret History of Twin Peaks makes it quite clear that these elements — UFOs, government secrecy, ancient mysticism — were not a gratuitous left-field addition to the story but very much implemented by the show’s creators, or at least Mark Frost. The novel trades almost entirely in these concepts, enriching and deepening them to the point where they become a vital part of the story’s matrix.
I imagine that, for those who want the second season’s references to ufology and aliens to be either a red herring or simply a metaphor for the metaphysical shenanigans of the Lodges, some will be disappointed to see Twin Peaks more openly indulging in straight sci-fi. But it’s important to keep in mind that Peaks always bent genres — mystery, comedy, soap opera, horror, etc. — and as such, this is par for the course.
Likewise, Frost retains the ambiguity of the original series. Although possible extraterrestrial or extradimensional occurrences are suggested, the book never comes down on a solid answer. One of the most tantalizing aspects of season two’s mystical streak is that, while there is clearly some connection between the UFO phenomenon and the supernatural forces which dwell in Ghostwood Forest, it’s never 100% clear what that connection is. Are BOB/Mike/the Giant aliens? Are they spiritual beings? Are other sentient races also searching for the Lodges? Is there a clear-cut distinction between these ideas? The book maintains that Grey area.
With all the hazy uncertainty, what exactly does this story concretely reveal about the mythology of Twin Peaks? Apart from the ring, one of the most intriguing revelations is that the first white men to discover Owl Cave — the very, very interestingly named Denver Bob and Wayne Chance (“one chants”?) — vanished without a trace not long after. Vanishing in the woods is, apparently, a common leisure activity in Twin Peaks. The series explained that Margaret the Log Lady had been abducted by the forces of Glastonbury Grove as a young girl, resulting in her mysterious tattoo. The book further reveals that both Douglas Milford and Carl Rodd experienced similar disappearances when they were children, events which marked them deeply. This contextualizes Carl’s comment in Fire Walk With Me, when he ominously mutters “I’ve already gone places.” (Carl was abducted while on a class trip with Margaret, along with a third character not previously introduced).
Another idea made fairly clear in the book is the existence of a far-reaching conspiracy to harness the power of the Lodges. Various groups are namedropped — the Freemasons, the Illuminati, the Wise Men, all the usual suspects — but regardless of whatever they may or may not be called, it becomes obvious that certain shadowy sects mean to tap into this preternatural energy.
This is not exactly new, as on the series both Project Blue Book and Windom Earle had these very goals, and Earle further relayed tales of the Dugpas, a cult of black magicians with similar aims. But the depth of these conspiracies is illustrated much more clearly here, with various duplicitous players taking the stage, many of them still in the dark to some degree. No one ever seems to be in possession of all the facts, and anyone could be lying. There are no reliable narrators in this novel. It’s also uncertain who, if anyone, is at the head of these machinations. Richard Nixon briefly mentions an enigmatic figure called the Caretaker, but it’s impossible to discern the level of truthfulness to his statements.
Most fans have made a correlation between Project Blue Book and the film’s mysterious Blue Rose cases, seemingly Gordon Cole’s attempts to classify investigations of a less-than-standard nature. That seems doubly pronounced here, with Cole essentially revealed as working with Doug Milford and Blue Book. The implication is that he quite intentionally assigned Cooper to the Laura Palmer case, knowing the types of things which might be unearthed. This adds to one of the most intriguing mysteries of Twin Peaks, that odd cosmic tangle which seems to follow Cooper, Cole, Windom Earle, Phillip Jeffries, and Major Briggs. They share an unbelievable web of connections, both mundane and fateful, and there still seems a good deal more to learn, since much of this is only maddeningly hinted at in the novel.
Conspiracy theorists and students of the arcane are sure to have a field day with the many real-life people and incidents on which Frost touches, from Meriwether Lewis to Kenneth Arnold to E. Howard Hunt. Of particular note is his usage of rocket scientist and JPL founder Parsons, known for his involvement with Aleister Crowley’s religion/philosophy/magickal system Thelema . . . and also for being mercilessly taken advantage of by a young L. Ron Hubbard, who would later go on to found Scientology. Despite the fact that he’s appropriating this history for a tale of supernatural light and darkness, Frost avoids the histrionic depictions of Parsons as a sex-crazed lunatic devil worshipper that have become too common in pop lore, instead presenting him as a well-meaning but overwhelmed individual unleashing forces out of his control.
Twin Peaks has always succeeded at depicting the otherworldly in a truly haunting and disturbing fashion, and Frost certainly uses that to his advantage. Along the lines of Lovecraft, he believably paints a descent into the esoteric that causes the main character — in this case, Agent Preston — to begin questioning her sanity. A handful of chilling moments stand out, such as Nixon’s aforementioned reference to the Caretaker, a person who manages to frighten even him. But possibly the most unsettling is Milford’s encounter with what is purportedly an alien, an almond-eyed grey creature which seems to fade in and out of reality. Far from a reassuring Close Encounters moment, this brief experience leaves Milford in a state of existential shock, unsure of what is true and what is illusion.
In his more recent films such as Mulholland Drive and Inland Empire, David Lynch has made a habit of portraying surreal, shifty cabals of sinister men, just real enough to be frightening and just unreal enough to be even moreso. These potentially aimless labyrinthine nightmares feel represented here, even though Lynch is not a coauthor, and it’s clear that this is an area where Lynch and Frost occupy a lot of similar ground.
But for all the significant new insights into the mythology of Twin Peaks, the book would simply be an exercise in world-building if it did not also include some glimpses into the lives of the many characters we’ve come to know and love. To say Twin Peaks has a large cast would be an understatement, so it’s simply not possible for the novel to service all or even most of them, but the character work that does make it into the book is uniformly excellent.
Given that most of us have been wondering for two and a half decades what happened to everyone after the show, the novel offers a few minimalist answers (again, most likely to avoid undercutting the new season). Audrey survived the bank explosion; Pete, Andrew, and Dell did not (pretty much a given, since their respective actors have all since passed away). Catherine sold the mill to Ben and became a miserable recluse. Hank went back to prison, where he was knifed by a Renault cousin and died.
Actually, that’s mostly it. There really aren’t any more answers about the deluge of cliffhangers for the end of the series.
What the book explores is actually the pasts of many of the characters, providing more insight into who they are as people. We get backstories, some fairly detailed, for Norma, Ed, Nadine, Hank, Dr. Jacoby, Andrew, Josie, and the Log Lady. (I know, I know, major glowing white horse in the room here about the backstories. Trust me, I’m getting to it). Ed and Nadine’s tale, narrated by Hawk, is a particular highlight, since the reader can perfectly hear it in Hawk’s voice. Frost also has fun with the ongoing sibling rivalry between Dwayne and Douglas Milford, resulting in some classic Peaks humor.
But the absolute standout has to be a newspaper profile of Margaret the Log Lady, written by Dr. Jacoby’s journalist brother Robert. A loving tribute to the character which also answers a handful of questions about her past, the piece is clearly influenced by the death of actress Catherine Coulson, who passed away not long into the production of the new season. The article is doubly affecting as it’s written from the perspective of Robert, who has known Margaret since they were children and who is facing the end stages of multiple sclerosis. Even though he’s a newly introduced character, Robert Jacoby’s eventual passing has a strange amount of weight to it, as his profile of Margaret becomes a fairly profound meditation on life and death.
There is also a surprising amount of insight into Dr. Jacoby himself, particularly his beliefs as a New Age-y hippie psychiatrist. His final evaluation of Laura Palmer’s case — where he openly debates whether or not Leland was truly possessed by a paranormal entity, or if BOB was simply a delusion shared by Laura and Leland to shield them from the truth of incest and sexual abuse —breaks down one of the central arguments of the show. (And some excerpts from Jacoby’s psychonautical tome The Eye of God suggest that Walter Bishop from Fringe might not have been lying when he claimed to be one of Jacoby’s friends, as they definitely appear to have traveled in the same circles).
Meanwhile, Major Briggs is (of course) revealed to be the Archivist, a fact which I imagine most fans will have pieced together well before its confirmation. His character, initially introduced on the series as Bobby’s conservative and antagonistically strict father, slowly transformed into one of the show’s handful of mystics, a deeply introspective, morally upright, and ultimately gentle man tasked with keeping dangerous secrets. Though Frost hasn’t written the character in 25 years, he absolutely nails the tone of Briggs’ voice, and the book significantly expands our knowledge of how Briggs came to work for Project Blue Book, and the occasional toll the keeping of secrets has taken on him.
Essentially, the three main characters of the novel are two with whom we’re already familiar (Milford and Briggs) and one we’ve just met (Agent Preston). Milford’s backstory was never even teased on the series, so it’s almost like getting to know a brand new character as we slowly uncover his shady past. As for Preston, she serves the Cooper role of being the straight shooter tasked with prying into an irrational, chaotic world, and keeping her wits about her. We only get small bits of evidence as to who she might be as a person, but it’s enough to want more.
Apart from those already mentioned, the remainder of the characters don’t get much facetime. They primarily appear in little cameos, be it a main character like Doc Hayward or a background figure like Cappie. I particularly enjoyed learning that Sheriff Truman has a brother, Frank, also in law enforcement, and that Harry’s favorite book is To Kill A Mockingbird. Also of note is Briggs’ theory that Dougie’s widow Lana Budding is actually a hired assassin, something which made me laugh out loud at first but now has me wondering. It’s not much, but even tiny teases like this are appreciated after a 25 year absence.
Now, what everyone really, really, REALLY wants to know is, bluntly, what the fuck happened to Agent Cooper? Last we saw, his doppelganger emerged from the Black Lodge, bringing BOB with him; Good Cooper was still wandering around the Red Room like Dorothy lost in Oz. Infuriatingly but no doubt purposefully, Frost provides absolutely zero information as to Cooper’s current whereabouts. Coop is sporadically mentioned throughout the book, and it’s stated that something serious and oh so very top secret went down with him, but no further details are forthcoming. None of which is a shock, really, as a question this big should exclusively be the province of the new season.
Something is Different . . .
Now for an issue that is no doubt on the minds of almost every hardcore fan who has read this book. Frost could have simply provided some character histories that allowed us to briefly hear from those people again, and left it at that. And, indeed, that’s largely what he did. However, he seems to have introduced a further mystery, this one with no easy answers. It is nearly impossible not to notice the many, many inconsistencies between the world depicted in the series/film and the one presented in this book. Some are small and possibly just brief lapses in continuity, but some are so large as to be not only glaring, but actually rewriting the history of the show we love.
There are many examples.
- The town newspaper changes its name from the Twin Peaks Gazette to the Twin Peaks Post in 1970. On the series, it was only ever known as the Gazette.
- The high school football team is now the Lumberjacks, when on the show they were the Steeplejacks.
- Norma’s backstory reveals that her maiden name is Lindstrom, there’s no mention of any siblings, and her mother was Ilsa and died in the early 80s. This is great except that in the series, her maiden name was Blackburn, she had a sister named Annie, and their mother was Vivian/MT Wentz and very much alive to torment them.
- The show revealed that Ed and Nadine were married right out of high school, and that he accidentally shot out her eye on their honeymoon. In the book, they don’t get married until 15 years or so after high school, with Ed having done a significant tour of duty in Vietnam. The circumstances of Nadine’s accident are also largely different.
- Agent Preston mentions that Cooper was shot by Windom Earle, whereas it’s always been made emphatically clear that Coop had been stabbed.
- The novel lays out that Audrey went to the Twin Peaks Savings & Loan to expose her father’s plans for the Ghostwood estates. On the series, she and her father reconciled well before the finale, as Ben had lost the Ghostwood development deal to the Packards and joined forces with Audrey to stop Catherine, becoming an environmentalist in an attempt to redeem himself. Audrey went to the bank partially on her father’s behalf, not to publicly shame him. Also, Ben’s head injury from the finale is not mentioned.
- Dr. Jacoby says that Leland was never formally charged with the murder of Jacques Renault, but I’m pretty sure we all the saw the episodes where Leland was arrested and awaiting trial for murdering Jacques Renault.
- Harry writes a drunken note to Cooper explaining the circumstances around Josie’s death. In the show, Coop personally witnessed Josie dying, and what he saw became a significant plot detail.
- Windom Earle does not seem to have ever escaped from the mental institution and made it to Twin Peaks. It would behoove Briggs to discuss Windom’s escape in his dossier, considering that he and Earle are former Blue Book coworkers, and that near the end of the series, Earle kidnaps Briggs and drugs him for information about the Lodges. Briggs’ corresponding archival entries make no note of this, nor does he mention Sarah Palmer’s message from Windom Earle in the finale. He also fails to note how Earle caused chaos at the Miss Twin Peaks contest and abducted Annie Blackburn, instead discussing that year’s pageant elsewhere in positive terms.
What exactly is going on here? Has Mark Frost never actually watched Twin Peaks?
I’d like to point out for a moment that continuity errors are pretty much inevitable, particularly when undertaking anything of significant scope, and particularly when that endeavor is a TV show. Dates and geographical details are especially hard to get right; I can think of zero series that don’t flub those elements at some point.
Peaks itself has a handful of offenses. It flipflops years a couple of times: Emory Battis’ calendar in season one is for 1990, but season two establishes the series as taking place in 1989. Then the extended Phillip Jeffries sequence in the Missing Pieces states the year as 1989 when it should be 1988. (This is because it was moved in the final cut to the section of the film dealing with the Teresa Banks investigation, but since the Missing Pieces are essentially meant to be treated as canon, this change becomes problematic).
Other continuity issues include: the AB-negative blood sample belongs to Jacques Renault in season one and then suddenly changes to Leland in season two; Harold having a diary entry from Laura dated the day of her death, despite her giving him the diary a week before; and the phone call Laura receives the night of her murder, which switches from Leland in the show to James in the film. There are also pragmatic issues, such as James traveling from Twin Peaks to San Francisco on his motorcycle — and Donna getting a postcard from him — all within 2 or 3 days. And why exactly is Cooper so surprised by the forests of Washington state in the pilot when he’d just been there the previous year, visiting Deer Meadow?
Speaking of Deer Meadow, I’d like to officially clarify that I have no clue where the hell it is. In the pilot episode, Cooper says Teresa Banks was murdered in a town in the southwest corner of the state. In Fire Walk With Me, Deer Meadow is suggested to be in Oregon, since Cole, Desmond, and Stanley all meet in Portland (though it’s just as possible they drive up into Washington, since I’m pretty sure Teresa’s floating body crossed the state line). But in the book, Deer Meadow is in a county neighboring Twin Peaks, with Carl Rodd’s trailer park not far from his hometown.
All of which is a way of saying the novel is not immune to the same types of continuity problems as the series and the film. There are little things in the book that simply don’t work when compared to the show, but those could easily be oversights, or even minor retcons for storytelling clarity. Yet some of these larger incongruities are so noticeable and grievous that, for any well-attuned fan, it’s bound to briefly take the reader out of the story.
If not intentional, Mark Frost either doesn’t care or is otherwise in serious need of a fact-checker to help keep the world of Twin Peaks straight. It’s not completely out of the realm of possibility, as ancillary materials such as tie-in novels are often written quickly and prove fairly disposable in the end. We’ve all had that experience where a book or some other form of promotional media is supposedly canon for the show or movie in question, only for it to be later contradicted or ignored.
Case in point, the previous tie-in books for Twin Peaks — The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer, Cooper’s autobiography, and the Access Guide to the town — don’t sit perfectly with the larger continuity. Laura’s diary reveals who Bobby killed, but then the movie provides a completely different answer to that question. The diary also establishes Laura’s death as occurring in 1990. Meanwhile, the timeline and geography presented in the Access Guide don’t always click when compared to what’s seen onscreen. In other cases, certain elements are retained but used in a new way. The Cooper book established that Teresa Banks was murdered in a town called Deer Meadow, but many of the details are different from what is eventually presented in Fire Walk With Me.
Frost’s novel being either a thoughtless cash-in or an earnest but ill-researched project really doesn’t work, though. Yes, some of the details are way, way off, but others are too correct for this to have been simply slapped together. Frost has clearly taken the time to meticulously comb through the mythology of both the series and the film. He’s even borrowed or touched upon certain elements from the other Twin Peaks books. Too much of this is spot-on for him to make such obvious errors, like renaming the town newspaper for no reason, or seemingly erasing Annie Blackburn from existence, or forgetting Big Ed’s monologue about Nadine in the second season premiere (which Frost himself wrote).
But if it is intentional, why? What’s the point of rewriting or ignoring what was previously established? (And for a show which made a name for itself by demanding that viewers pay close attention to details, no less).
It’s tempting to theorize that Mark Frost might just be ditching the continuity of the second year, outright rejecting parts of a season that many found troublesome or at least all over the place. But, though Frost has acknowledged certain faults with season two, it’s really David Lynch who’s been more ambivalent about the creative choices that year. Frost himself has largely stood by the second season, and he wouldn’t have written an entire book delving into its mythology if he were trying to distance himself from it.
So, if these inconsistencies were designed on purpose, that can only mean something is seriously amiss in Twin Peaks. We’re quite possibly looking at a slightly different world than the one we remember, a world where the broad strokes are largely the same but some of the specifics are quite divergent.
How would such a world come to be? For one thing, we’ve certainly seen that time and space don’t seem to be operating by the normal laws in Twin Peaks. Jeffries has been randomly time traveling/teleporting since disappearing in Seattle, and Cooper appears to exist outside of conventional time while being trapped in the Black Lodge. Since we know that throughout history various groups of magicians and scientists have been trying to tap into the Lodges, is it possible someone succeeded and altered time itself?
Another thing to consider: the whole concept of multiple layers of reality is oft-cited throughout the story. The Black Lodge represents somewhere else. BOB and Mike come from another place. Jeffries utters “We live inside a dream.” Mike’s poem uses the phrase “between two worlds.” Like many, I’ve always assumed the phrase “two worlds” was a reference to Twin Peaks and wherever the beings from the Lodges originate. But what if, similar to the aforementioned Fringe, there is literally another Twin Peaks, the mirror image universe to the one depicted in the original series, where slightly different paths have been forged? If true, this would give new meaning to the name of the book: this is a secret history of Twin Peaks because this version of Twin Peaks has been hidden from us.
The very title Twin Peaks has always referred to various types of duality. Good and evil. Civilization and nature. Inner and outer. The physical and the supernatural. What if it also refers to twin worlds? What if the doppelgangers from the Black Lodge are reflections of the characters from that mirror reality?
In a recent chat, Mark Frost addressed the inconsistencies, saying:
“In life you have to learn to live with paradoxes, and sometimes what we think we know isn’t what actually happened. Sometimes what we think really happened isn’t something that we actually know. And sometimes things will be revealed further down the line that will help clarify all those things.”
A vague and slippery answer, to be sure, and one that could easily be interpreted as “Hey it’s been 25 years I can’t remember everything please leave me alone!” But it’s also cryptic enough to suggest that what look like errors are anything but.
Now, I’m not necessarily convinced that all of these discrepancies are intentional. Things such as Cooper being shot instead of stabbed, or Leland never having been officially charged for smothering Jacques, might just be mistakes that slipped through the cracks during editing. There are no doubt a handful of those throughout the book, as well. But enough looks to be deliberately wrong for us to ponder.
In addition to the direct breakaways from the original continuity, there are also a handful of details which, while not directly conflicting with the series, seem to suggest something spiritually different. Though the original Twin Peaks indicated Gordon Cole knew more than he was letting on, the Cole of the novel reads as a hair more manipulative and secretive. And while on the series Major Briggs came across as somewhat at the mercy of the higher government forces to which he answered, here he seems both more in charge of Blue Book and also lonelier and more adrift in terms of directing the project.
The book also provides a somewhat less positive take on the beings of the White Lodge, with Briggs mentioning that he felt no benevolence or reassurance during his abduction, and Milford indicating the cosmic forces at play in Twin Peaks likely are indifferent to humanity, using us only when necessary. While the supernatural beings on the series could often be quite menacing or at least ominous, someone like the Giant was very clearly established to be emanating from a place of empathy and love. The novel appears to muddy that water.
(It’s also worth noting that the White and Black Lodge are never directly referenced — not even in Briggs’ archives — only alluded to during the section on Crowley and Parsons, which refers to white and black lodges in terms of different cults of magicians. The omission is highly conspicuous. The timeline presented here for Blue Book also doesn’t fully jibe with the show).
At the end of it all, what does The Secret History of Twin Peaks ultimately achieve? On its own, it provides an engrossing story which depicts a conflict between the spiritual mysteries which unite us and the clandestine withholding of truth that divides us. This isn’t just a secret history of Twin Peaks, it’s a secret history of America, with white European culture violating the sacred mysteries of the land, and descending into madness in an attempt to hold the forces of the universe hostage and maintain its own power.
As to what this book means for the bigger picture of Twin Peaks, only time will tell with the release of the new season. It’s certainly unclear how literally to take any of the information presented here, all or none of which might come into play in the upcoming episodes. Frost seems to be using the idea of government conspiracies and alien cover-ups less in an X Files manner, and more in a subjective fashion akin to Philip K. Dick or Robert Anton Wilson, where the truth is absurd and fundamentally unknowable and not meant to be grasped on a literal level. It’s doubtful that every detail here is a deliberate clue as to the future (or past) of Twin Peaks, but more that it’s all part of a particular stylistic flourish. (Or maybe I’m wrong. While I don’t think the new season will involve aliens collecting human genetic material for their experiments, you never know).
David Lynch’s films often depict spiritual states of being, the characters’ inner worlds turned into external reality, the line between concrete and abstract blurred. Mark Frost has a considerably more grounded approach, but he still possesses an equally firm grasp of encountering the otherworldly, bringing a pulp sensibility to Lynch’s existential mazes like a weird but beautiful combination of Lovecraft and Kafka. For those obsessed with hidden secrets and occult truths, Frost understands the appeal of sifting through a collection of strange documents over a pot of coffee, of discovering a new world and getting increasingly lost in that world, and this novel provides that exact experience.
The book deliberately obfuscates any attempts to glean direct information about the new season, but I do have a few guesses. I wouldn’t be surprised if Tamara Preston features as one of the new additions to the series — certainly, that would be excellent if it were the case. Robert Forster has reportedly joined the show and my hunch is that he’s most likely playing Harry’s brother, Frank Truman.
As for the narrative arc, this novel definitely looks to be planting the seed for the introduction of another world, or something along those lines. (If not, the discrepancies at the very least suggest someone has tampered with the documents to hide information, which is in and of itself alarming). It’s certainly curious that Annie has disappeared from the story, considering the final line of the series is “How’s Annie?” repeated over and over. Norma mentioned on the show that her sister always seemed like she belonged in “another place and time.” Heather Graham hasn’t been listed in the cast, but is it possible the new season is driven by the question of “How’s Annie?” What becomes of a character who doesn’t seem to exist anymore? No matter what, something of cosmic significance has transpired since Cooper’s experiences in the Black Lodge, and that no doubt has ramifications for the entire world(s) of the show.
Of course, this could be bullshit and the new season might take place on Mars. We’ll have to wait and see.
All in all, The Secret History of Twin Peaks represents something we’ve never really seen before. Though David Lynch and Mark Frost created the series together, Lynch in some ways becomes the final author in terms of visuals and mood, since the episodes are filtered through his sensibilities. Here, with this book, we finally are permitted a glimpse into a Twin Peaks with just Mark Frost at the wheel.
It’s an amazing ride, and I’m so happy to visit this world again.
I haven’t been this excited since I punctured Caroline’s aorta.