If you watched TV in the early '90s, chances are you remember a show called "Twin Peaks." It only aired for two seasons in 1990-91, and had a follow-up movie called "Fire Walk With Me" that aired in 1992, but over the years it has become something of a cult classic. The show was created by David Lynch and Mark Frost, starred Kyle MacLachlan as FBI Agent Dale Cooper, and began with the mystery of who killed Laura Palmer.
Showtime announced about two years ago that "Twin Peaks" would be returning for a third season, and Lynch and Frost confirmed that the show would pick up 25 years after the events of the last season. In addition, Frost wrote a book titled "The Secret History of Twin Peaks" which was published in October of 2016.
Of course, as a fan of the show, I had to read the tie-in novel. I had hoped it might answer some questions about what has happened to the show's characters in the intervening decades. If you're a dedicated fan of the show, however, this book will only leave you with more questions than answers.
The book itself is not written in the typical form of a novel, but instead takes the form of a "dossier" being analyzed by the FBI, which has been compiled by a figure known only as "the Archivist," and is a book of typed notes discussing included "documents" such as journal entries, newspaper articles, letters, interview transcripts, and more.
It begins by examining the history of the area surrounding the town of Twin Peaks, beginning with documents from the Lewis and Clark expedition. We learn about the native Nez Perce tribes and the founding of Twin Peaks, including stories about some of the show's characters' ancestors.
The story of Twin Peaks is connected in odd ways to historical figures including Thomas Jefferson and Richard Nixon, weaving history with fiction in a convincing and fascinating manner. However, the dossier mostly devotes its time to discussing UFO sightings and focusing on the story of Doug Milford's life -- a minor character in the second season of the show. While it's interesting to learn more about the character's past, it certainly begs the question -- why focus on him?
Eagle-eyed (owl-eyed?) readers will notice this book is chock-full of contradictory information. For instance, one of the documents included is an Air Force enlistment form for Doug Milford dated 1941, however the notes in the dossier state elsewhere that the Air Force did not exist until 1947 and was the Army Air Corps at the time Milford joined.
Other background history details about well-known characters from the show do not match the details given in the show itself. The most glaring difference is the changes to Norma's mother, with the book stating that she had died before the time frame the show covered -- while in fact Norma's mother was actually in the show. The mother's name was also changed in the book, and fans sent complaints about the differences to the author, Mark Frost, who replied, "All will be revealed in time."
While fans know Frost and Lynch both have a knack for being cryptic, it stands to reason that Frost's comment implies the book was written with inconsistencies on purpose. So what does that mean for the book?
Fans have many theories, but a clue may lie in the title of the book itself, with the de facto main character of the book, Doug Milford, at one point saying, "A secret's only a secret as long as you keep it. Once you tell someone it loses all its power -- for good or ill -- like that, it's just another piece of information. But a real mystery can't be solved, not completely."
Whatever the true purpose, this book did succeed in getting people talking before the show returns, with many websites and forums full of fans discussing the book's inconsistencies and what they might mean to the show. We won't know until the show premieres if any of the theories are even close to the truth, and Frost and Lynch are masters of misdirection.
While the book seems almost to be a fan service written in the spirit of the television show, even fans who prefer not to analyze Frost's clues will enjoy this book. It's imaginative and interesting, with a beautiful layout that immerses the reader in the story being told, and the story is intriguing whether or not it turns out to be true. There are tons of hidden gems for fans to find (tip from Dr. Jacoby: invest in a pair of 3D glasses), so those who want to delve into the book's world will have plenty to keep their interest.
"Twin Peaks" returns to television May 21 on Showtime and will be followed by Mark Frost's next book, "Twin Peaks: The Final Dossier." Fans can refresh their memory by streaming the first two seasons on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and Showtime's online app.