The Secret History Of Twin Peaks by Mark Frost (book review)

January 29, 2017 | By | Reply More

In case you’ve been living under a log for the past year, it’s probably not escaped your notice that ‘Twin Peaks’ is coming back. It’s been 26 years since Dale Cooper entered the Black Lodge and we’ve been wondering if he will ever make it out ever since. While ‘The Secret History Of Twin Peaks’ by Mark Frost does not answer that burning question, it serves as an interesting prelude to the forthcoming series while serving up a reminder of some of the weirdness that was the undercurrent to the seemingly perfect American town.

The book itself is framed around that idea that it is a manuscript found by the FBI at an unnamed crime scene. Collated and written by an unnamed Archivist, the manuscript is a potted history of Twin Peaks and, more importantly, the strange events that have dogged the town’s history. As we read through various things, including an account of the Lewis and Clark expedition that implies supernatural forces were at work and reports of UFO sightings, the Archivist seems to uncover a conspiracy that implicates many in Twin Peaks as well as the whole of the US government. With extra notes from the FBI agent assigned to investigate the book, will it let us know whether the owls are really as they seem?

Given that he’s the co-creator of ‘Twin Peaks’, it’s unsurprising that Mark Frost has avoided delivering a straight narrative. Instead, we’re given a loose arrangement of clippings, ranging from magazine articles to the restaurant menu of the Double RR Diner, in which patterns and characters constantly re-occur. It’s not out of keeping with the rest of ‘Twin Peaks’ spin-off books which were also positioned as ‘found material’. Amongst them, ‘The Secret Diary Of Laura Palmer’ and ‘Welcome To Twin Peaks: An Access Guide To The Town,’ which was a tourist guide to the town. It makes it very much like the TV show, it’s difficult to get a sense of narrative cohesion but does reward the reader in picking up certain bits of information and joining some of the dots. This does mean that it is rather unforgiving for the ‘Twin Peaks’ novice and those needing a primer on the TV show before the new series would be well advised to seek out something else.

Fans will find much to enjoy here. While there are no major spoilers on offer here, there are a few teases about what the next season of ‘Twin Peaks’ might have on offer and some resolution is given to the fates of a few popular characters. In many ways, the book sidesteps some of the Lynchian aspects of the show, the unnamed supernatural and existential dread at the heart of much of the Laura Palmer storyline, here only mentioned in a relatively minor way, is swapped for a conspiracy theory story that mixes Oliver Stone with 50s American flying saucer movies and a large dash of ‘The X-Files’. It’s enjoyable enough and Frost seems to enjoy writing in different voices and styles, though it slightly lacks the goofy sense of the surreal that typified the TV show.

The conceit behind the book is not always successful with the ‘notes’ written by the FBI agent investigating the dossier being done in such a crowbarred way that, even in the fantastical story we’re presented with, it feels rather artificial, as well as the fact that the ‘candid’ photos of some of the protagonists look suspiciously like they could have be taken as publicity shots for a TV show. Fancy that. If you’re going to try and present the book ‘as real’ then any break in the fiction is going to be magnified. That said the book is well-designed, all swathed in an eerie ‘Twin Peaks Green’.

With ‘Twin Peaks’ spin-offs thin on the ground, this will undoubtedly find a popular home amongst ‘Twin Peaks’ fandom. While it is a somewhat disjointed affair, the snippets of Peaks lore that it offers will keep fans entertained until the show returns to our screens.

Laurence Boyce

January 2017

(pub: Pan Macmillan, 2016. 352 page hardback. Price: 12.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-44729-386-6)

check out website: www.panmacmillan.com/

Category: Books, TV

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About the Author ()

Laurence Boyce is a film journalist who likes Bond, Batman and Doctor Who (just to prove the things he enjoys things that don't just start with a 'B'). He is also a film programmer for various film festivals in the UK and abroad.

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