REVIEW: The Secret History of Twin Peaks by Mark Frost

With the release of his new novel, Mark Frost brings the mystery, oddity, and myth of the cult TV series to the printed page.

“I’ll see you in 25 years.”

And we shall. Next year, Twin Peaks returns to television. In anticipation of this new season, co-creator Mark Frost has put together a book that’s every bit as strange and mysterious as the television series.

The book is told in an epistolary format, each loose “chapter” made up of various “found” documents collected by a mysterious character known only as The Archivist. Much of the book is this person’s summary and interpretations of the various documents including newspaper clippings, excepts from Dr. Lawrence Jacoby’s book, a short story by Deputy Hawk, transcripts of “classified” government audio recordings, and even pieces of Lewis & Clarke’s lost journals.

Adding another layer to the mystery, these collected documents have been recently “found” at a murder scene, and the FBI’s Gordon Cole (David Lynch in the series) has tasked an agent known only as “TP” with decoding the book and discovering the identity of The Archivist. This agent’s footnotes comprise the final layer of meta-awareness in the book as we join them in trying to riddle out the truth among the deceptions and discern the identity of the book’s author.

The novel mainly details the history of the town prior to the events of the show, as well as significant portions dedicated to various covert government operations involving residents of Twin Peaks and the surrounding woods. These chapters take the reader into the sordid worlds of UFO sightings, rocket science, coverups, and black magic. The brief looks at the town between the end of the series and the upcoming season are few and far between, serving only to whet the appetite. But what is meant to enlighten and what is meant to distract?

The book was initially met with a significant amount of backlash from long time fans of the show, as many small details from the series were seemingly ignored, retconned, or simply thrown out the window entirely. But as clever readers soon discovered there is more to these seeming errors than meets the eye.

More than once in the book it is indicated that the documents presented as “authentic and original” have either been altered or fabricated by parties unknown. The who and why are a matter of debate among fans who are still trying to suss out all of the clues and omissions. One example: throughout the book it is shown that The Archivist’s typewriter has no “1” key, instead they use the capital “I” making the number fifteen look like “I5”. This small quirk carries over into several documents that are supposed to come from different sources, indicating that these have been fabricated.

What is most surprising about the novel however, is how much real life history Frost has weaved into his fiction, from Lewis & Clarke to Jack Parsons and L. Ron Hubbard, he uses real figures from American history and the details surrounding their lives (and deaths) as a background to construct his Secret History of Twin Peaks. Research as you read and you’ll be surprised at how much of the book is based on actual incidents and people.

The only real issue I have with the book is the agent “reading” it. TP’s notes are often unnecessary, they point out things that should be clear to anyone who was paying attention. And while mostly relevant, several chapters seemed overlong and indulged too heavily in the realm of “conspiracy theories” including a lot of information on aliens and the Illuminati. Though exactly how pertinent these sections will be to the mythology of the show remains to be seen, and Mark Frost is keeping those details close to his chest.

I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Frost at a book signing earlier this month, he was very friendly with all of the fans and gave thoughtful and satisfying answers to their questions. He played selections from the audiobook that (whenever possible) used the voices of actors from the show both old and new. He took ample time to speak with everyone in line for the signing and seemed genuinely gracious at the gifts he was given. When asked about the possibility of a sequel novel, he divulged that there is one in the works whose release will depend on the 2017 series.

As far as the physical book goes, the binding is excellent and the cover is beautiful. It looks great on the shelf, though it seems much longer than it is, much like Mark Z. Danielewski’s The Familiar series, the word count speaks more to the length of the book than the page count. The novel seems sizable, but reads quickly. The pages have full color, including some very cool red/blue photographs of owls, aliens, and BOB.

In the end, the book raises many more questions than it answers, but it wouldn’t be part of Twin Peaks if it didn’t. Fans will likely be reading between the lines and scouring the pages for clues for a very long time. This is an absolute must read for big fans of the show, however casual readers might be thrown off by the large amount of seemingly irrelevant material.

The new season of Twin Peaks premiers on Showtime sometime in the first half of next year.