Thursday, June 1, 2017

The Secret History of Twin Peaks

The Owls Are Still Not What They Seem—
The Secret History of Twin Peaks Audio Experience
By Gilbert Colon

When Twin Peaks co-creator Mark Frost first announced his new book under the title The Secret Lives of Twin Peaks, fans naturally assumed it would be a novel filling in the intervening years between the original ABC series (1990-1991) and the current continuation on Showtime (2017).  It is not.  It is not even the “James Michener-style book on the history of Twin Peaks [going] back to the time of the geological forming of the peaks” that he once envisioned penning (though there is an earth sciences interlude on pages 107-114).  Instead the noticeably retitled The Secret History of Twin Peaks (Flatiron Books) is something entirely different, a dense scrapbook of FBI office memoranda, dossiers, files, historical records, book excerpts, news clippings, even a Double R Diner menu, etc., that introduces characters and events leading up to the latest David Lynch gothic mystery soap.  (Though the cover still does read The Secret History of Twin Peaks: A Novel.)  

On October 20th, 2016, Twin Peaks co-creator Frost personally visited the Manhattan flagship Barnes & Noble at Union Square to promote this newest book.  He did so seven months before Showtime was due to air a third season of brand-new episodes, more than a quarter of a century after the original.  News of a return had been on the radar for years, but was only officially announced in October 2014 (one year after Crimespree magazine, in October 2013, virtually scooped the Peaks revival amidst the sustained protestations of Frost and Lynch’s daughter Jennifer).  Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) foretold, “I’ll see you again in 25 years.”  She was off only by a year (unless you count the 2016 release of Frost’s book as part of the official comeback).  

From the Barnes & Noble stage, Frost reads from his book, but more impressive than the book itself is, at least for purposes of public presentation, the Macmillan audiobook.  (Which makes sense when one considers the significant role Lynch’s “soundscaping” plays in shaping the “moodscape” of his films.)  Running close to ten hours, the eight CDs include the voice talent of several Twin Peaks stars, most notably FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper himself, Kyle MacLachlan.  Like “Diane...”: The Twin Peaks Tapes of Agent Cooper, which MacLachlan recorded in 1990, The Secret History can be listened to while driving, perhaps while pulling into sleepy bucolic towns in the 5,120.1 population range.    

Almost in acknowledgment of the overpowering merits of the audiobook, the evening’s event is framed as something of a “multimedia” experience as audio from the book-on-tape punctuates and picks up where Frost’s readings leave off.  The author appearance is even filmed, though it lasts only 25 minutes and Frost does not take questions.  He does, however, sign books and gabs afterwards with fans.  It is held on the floor just above an in-house Starbucks cafĂ© serving coffee, and even slices of pie.  

Taking the stage at around 7 p.m., Frost opens with a Groucho Marx quote: “Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend.  Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.”  He then thanks fans for keeping the flame alive these past 26 years, through friends and chat rooms, over coffee and pie, and in all the other ways.  

Frost launches into reciting small pieces of the book beginning with “The Dossier,” inviting attendees to read along with their own copies.  (Barnes & Noble policy is “PRIORITY SEATING WITH BOOK PURCHASE.”)  Before he does, he asks if anybody knows who “the Archivist” is.  A few raise their hands, and Frost hushes them gently with a shush finger.  

The Secret History, Frost says, “is filled with characters you know from the show, as well as a lot of new people who you’re going to meet,” plus historical personages.  (Lewis and Clark, Thomas Jefferson, semi-legendary Jeremiah Johnson, Chief Joseph, Aleister Crowley, President Truman, L. Ron Hubbard, Richard Nixon…)  

For the audiobook “they did a fun thing … they got actors from the show” (MacLachlan, Russ Tamblyn, Michael Horse, and David Patrick Kelly, in addition to several newcomers).  “Not all are playing the same people from the show, and some actors you’ll be hearing for the first time.”  Frost lends his own voice to the recording as well.  

The AV crew plays an audiobook snippet from page 41, “THE STORY OF CHIEF IN-MUT-TOO-YAH-LAT-LAT (CHIEF JOSEPH) OF THE NEZ PERCE.”  The voice is that of Michael Horse, who played Deputy Tommy “Hawk” Hill.  

Frost reads from page 74 before audio of Scoutmaster Andrew Packard takes over.  (It is worth mentioning that David Lynch is a proud Eagle Scout himself.)  Packard’s diary entry recounts a strange forest encounter with the giant in what you could call a true “tall tale.”   

There is a good deal of UFO and Roswell talk, if that is any indicator of the new series’ direction.  The inclusion of real-life rocket scientist-occultist Jack Parsons as a backstory player helps in blurring the lines between UFOlogy and the supernatural.  Page 123 reproduces a Bible page from the Book of Ezekiel – “the wheel” cited in the Jack Webb-narration of NBC’s flying saucer investigation series Project U.F.O. (1978-1979).  Indeed, the historic Project Blue Book receives several mentions in these pages, and the original Twin Peaks series makes it clear that both USAF Major Garland Briggs (Don S. Davis) and FBI Special Agent Windom Earle (Kenneth Welsh) were affiliated with Project Blue Book.  

Frost solicits a show of audience hands to learn how many know who Doug and Dwayne Milford are.  For the benefit of those who do not recognize the names, Frost explains that Dwayne is mayor of Twin Peaks, and Doug is his brother who married Lana (Miss Twin Peaks ’89).  “Milford has a lot to do with this book.”  

Next Frost shares a newspaper excerpt from the Twin Peaks Post, his reading again smoothly seguing into an audio sound bite that continues from where Frost left off.  “I take you back to a more familiar voice from a more familiar period, Nadine…”  He is introducing a snippet, printed on page 211, of a Calhoun Memorial Hospital psychiatric evaluation assessing the mental state of Nadine Hurley (Wendy Robie) before the audio kicks in – Russ Tamblyn reprising the role of Dr. Lawrence Jacoby, her therapist (and Laura Palmer’s) from the old show.  

“I would go deeper but I don’t want to give anything away.”  Which he has not.  The Secret History of Twin Peaks lays a foundation upon which the unfolding season will presumably build, but for now the material gives no overt clues as to what is to come.  Perhaps in retrospect readers will see this forest and its owls through the trees, but not quite yet.  

The event winds down.  “In closing, I want to leave you with two thoughts.  

“There are two secrets to writing:   

“One, don’t tell everything at once…”  

Frost pauses for a dramatic beat.  

“Thank you very much for coming out.”  

There is laughter, then applause.  The staff clears the stage at around 7:25 p.m. and begins lining up attendees for the signing and one-on-one chitchat with Frost.  

On May 21st, as this article was going to press, the long-anticipated Twin Peaks is happening again on Showtime.  This all-new 18-episode season wraps up in early September, but soon after – on Halloween of this year – Peaks fans still have Frost’s follow-up book (and audio) to look forward to: Twin Peaks: The Final Dossier.  


GILBERT COLON has written for Filmfax, Cinema Retro, Strand Mystery Magazine, Crime Factory, Film.Music.Media, and several other publications. His interview with filmmaker Abel Ferrara (Bad Lieutenant, King of New York) for the late, great Ed Gorman appeared in the anthology book They’re Here. He has written about Twin Peaks for the St. Martin’s Press newsletter, where he is contributor-at-large, and for Crimespree Magazine (parts one and two). Read him at Gilbert Street and send comments to

1 comment:

John Scoleri said...

Great write-up, Gilbert! When I heard they were using cast members on the audio version, I pre-ordered that in addition to the hardcover. I hope the same will be true with The Final Dossier.

I've been a huge fan of Mark Frost's Twin Peaks work as well as his novels - particularly the Conan Doyle books The List of 7 and The 6 Messiahs (I haven't yet explored his non-fiction sports writing).

We attended his San Francisco appearance for The Secret History of Twin Peaks, which was quite like the New York event you described, with the added bonus of getting to meet Michael Horse, who was also in attendance.

I'm loving the new series on Showtime. Four hours in and I have not yet been disappointed. Anxious to hear what you think of the new episodes.