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The Secret History of Twin Peaks by Mark Frost

October 12, 2018

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The pilot of Twin Peaks aired on ABC on April 8, 1990. I didn’t discover it until I was in college a few years later. With a curriculum loaded with film classes, I became a frequent patron of That’s Rentertainment, the video store in Urbana, Illinois. They had Twin Peaks seasons 1 and 2 on VHS. I rented them one at a time and fell in love with the art of David Lynch and the oddball characters and obtuse storylines of the small fictional town in rural Washington.

Twin Peaks is without a doubt the strangest thing to ever grace network television. It is my favorite TV show (followed by Northern Exposure, 1990’s other quirky small-town drama and True Detective, HBO’s 2014 hit that owed much to Twin Peaks). It is a strange cross-genre blend, a whodunit mystery meets horror meets comedy meets sci-fi wrapped in soap opera pastiche, directed by an artist with a penchant for surrealism.

Last year, after a few head fakes, Showtime released Twin Peaks: The Return, picking up 25 years after the end of season 2. Perhaps scarred by the various Star Wars returns, I hesitated to watch the reboot. But when I did get around to it, the eighteen new episodes blew me away again. Stunning, confounding, terrifying, surprising, delightful, magical, at times hilarious, frustrating and weird. It had a language of its own, more similar to Lynch’s later works like Mulholland Drive and Inland Empire, but with most of the original cast.

After finishing The Return, I went back and started the original series again, accompanied by books, podcasts, blogs and a subscription to the Blue Rose, the Twin Peaks fanzine.

The Secret History of Twin Peaks was written by Mark Frost, the show’s co-creator, and released before The Return, but it places the Twin Peaks universe into the vast chronology of American history. It’s epistolary—letters, documents, journals and articles collected into an annotated dossier that connects the town to unlikely historical figures and events like Lewis and Clark, Thomas Jefferson, the Freemasons, the UFO crash at Roswell, Aleister Crowley, Vietnam, Richard Nixon and others.

For Twin Peaks fans, it’s a fun expansion of the Twin Peaks mythology and a deeper look into some of the characters. Serious fans will notice a few errors—plot points that contradict elements of the show (whether or not these “errors” were intentional is a debate in and of itself), but for the most part the book is a seamless addendum and a good primer for The Return. It adds backstories and tangents that aren’t necessary but are usually interesting and/or amusing. The writing is fun, and the central mystery of the identity of the dossier’s compiler ties nicely into The Return.

On the whole, an enjoyable read and welcome addition to the mythos. It should also be noted that the design is beautiful (from Philadelphia’s Headcase Design).

2 Comments leave one →
  1. October 13, 2018 1:13 am

    I remember watching the original Twin Peaks at school in the UK and everyone was hooked. At the time, very few people guessed who killed Laura Palmer. Now if you watch all the episodes in a row on DVD, it’s so obvious.

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  1. Twin Peaks: The Final Dossier by Mark Frost | Disco Demolition Night

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