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Wednesday, April 10, 2019

The Secret History of Twin Peaks: A Novel (Twin Peaks)

by Mark Frost

Publisher: Flatiron Books (October 1, 2016)

Hardcover, 368 pages

“I don’t know what happened to either Major Briggs or Agent Cooper at this point. There are files on Briggs, at both the FBI and the Air force, and on Cooper at the FBI, that are designated many levels above Top Secret. Out of my reach. I’ve taken my analysis as far as I can. My instructions are clear: I’m to turn over the dossier with any findings to the Director’s office and wait for their response. Deadlines are pressing.”
While this book claims to be a novel, it is not, in typical Twin Peaks fashion, presented in your standard book format. Thus don't expect a story with a thematic arc where the hero goes on a journey with exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and a resolution. That would be too conventional for Twin Peaks.
The book is presented as a dossier of Twin Peaks collected and written by someone who self identifies as “The Archivist” - assumed to be Major Garland Briggs. The dossier has fallen into the hands of the FBI and has commentary throughout by a Special Agent Tamara Preston - who is the assistant to Gordon Cole in Twin Peaks: The Return series.
This book came out some years prior to The Return series (and in anticipation of it) and thus does not go far beyond the series end where Cooper, possessed by Killer BOB, smashes his head into a mirror.

I was afraid that this book would be a rehash of the events of the first Twin Peaks series, and while there is a certain amount of that, it mostly focused on events prior to the series and just after it. In it we learn Audrey Horne survived the blast in the bank, that Lawrence Jacoby lost his medical certification following the events of the Laura Palmer case, and about a mysterious meeting between Agent Cooper and Major Briggs just after Cooper is possessed.
The book delves into the deep history of the place, beginning with secret excerpts from the Lewis and Clark expedition letters to Thomas Jefferson about a special assignment in the area that would become Twin Peaks. There Lewis comes back handling the jade ring with the owl glyph. This first appeared in Fire Walk With Me and appears liberally throughout the novel. The specific purpose is unclear. It’s linked to the Black Lodge and those who wear it seem to be doomed to a violent end, or at least an unfortunate one.

What I find very interesting is that a lot of the material is centered around UFO research conducted by Colonel Douglas Milford. This character appeared in the original series for only three episodes where he marries a much younger woman and dies in their honeymoon bed. According to the novel he was involved in Projects Sign, Grudge, and Blue Book- all Air Force projects designed to examine and/or disprove the UFO phenomenon. This has always been in the background of Twin Peaks, but it is spelled out in more detail in the book. Of the traditional alien types- the greys appear connected to the Black Lodge, while the nordic types seem attached to the White Lodge.
During Douglas Milford’s investigations many historic figures come into the picture. Richard Nixon, Dwight Eisenhower, Jackie Gleason, Aliester Crowley, Jack Parsons, L. Ron Hubbard. I was gratified that the author made the obvious connections between the ideas Hubbard stole from Crowley’s Thelema philosophies for his self-help book Dianetics (and later on Scientology), while Crowley swiped the basic principles from the writings of Fran├žois Rabelais, specifically Gargantua and Pantagruel. “Do as thou wilt shall be the whole of the law” was coined by Rabelais. Only his ideas were sarcastic and meant to be satire, while Crowley ostensibly took it all in another direction.
What also pops up is the fact that there are rival hidden factions in the government that are investigating this phenomenon, but not sharing the information with each other. There are hints that at least two different organizations have aligned themselves in some way with extra-human entities.

Despite my enjoyment of the book, I've a couple of bones to pick with it. Primarily that it does offer any insights into the nature of the Black Lodge or its denizens. It simply describes more incidents of their appearances over the past hundred years. Secondly, there are some inaccuracies in the retelling of events and characters in the first Twin Peaks stories, specifically in the saga of Big Ed and Norma. What is presented is completely different than what is told in the series. There are several inconsistencies with the character of Hank Jennings and his dealings with Jean Renault. Plus one character is described as playing “checkers, not chess” whereas in the series he is distinctly shown to be a chess whiz. Mark Frost, author of the book and co-creator of the series, says that these mistakes are intentional and coming from an unreliable narrator, but I don't buy that explanation. It seems more like he made a few mistakes and tried to cover it up with some BS.
In the end, there aren’t many answers given to the mysterious events in Twin Peaks. The white and black lodges, the man from another place, the giant (now known as the Fireman), Killer BOB, and all the rest are not mentioned. Perhaps there will be more in the next book Twin Peaks: The Final Dossier, which I will be reviewing next.
For more readings, try books by Rex Hurst. 

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