Each week that goes by brings us nearer to the long-unexpected season 3 of Twin Peaks, details of which I have been avoiding much as I would UKIP Party Political meetings, leper colonies and football matches featuring the Bitters. However, just before Xmas, co-creator Mark Frost published The Secret History of Twin Peaks, a handsome, substantial hardback book with green binding and one of those annoying, Americanised half-dustjackets.
I bought it on impulse for myself for Xmas, but only made the time to read it this week (I am still only about a fifth of the way through Alan Moore’s Jerusalem). It was not until I took it up that I noticed that the dust-jacket described it as a novel.
This put a different perspective on the book, which I’d previously assumed was going to be more of a behind-the-scenes thing about the original two series. Wrong, very wrong. It’s a massive, wide-ranging, highly-detailed work that’s clearly intended as a direct lead-in to season 3, without giving away any spoilers, as such, as to what we’re all going to find out.
The book takes the form of an FBI Investigation, ordered up by Gordon Cole (David Lynch’s character in Twin Peaks) by an agent unnamed until literally the book’s last words, into a collection of documents assembled by someone known only as The Archivist (who, for a long time, seems most likely to be Dale Cooper but is instead a different, and entirely logical member of the Twin Peaks cast).
Agent TP is conducting an assessment of the Archivist’s materials, attempting to verify the truth and accuracy of the various materials it assembles, beginning with the Lewis and Clark expedition’s time in the Pacific North West and incorporating a lot of supposedly real history. Straight away, let me state that I am no specialist on American history in this depth, but the book is put together in a way that leads me to think that a great many real historical mysteries have been interwoven with the fictional history of Twin Peaks, the town, and its main families.
What the book does, over its many pages, is to build a history based around the spine of an unexpected minor character in the original series, one who was actually killed off in the show. The ostensible underlying story is the intriguing issue of Unidentified flying Objects, and the varied responses to sightings made by the American Army and authorities.
This does seem bafflingly tangential to the main thrust of the series, which concerned itself with more ‘magical’ elements, forces of Evil out of Indian beliefs: UFOs, Roswell, and similar incidents are more of a scientific theme, no matter what your opinion as to their validity and/or credibility.
But Frost manoeuvres his account round to merge the two ideas into something rather larger, lying behind everything that is happening, has happened, and is still waiting to happen in Twin Peaks, Washington State, 2017.
What he also manages to do is to successfully freeze the story at where it was last left, in 1991. We are reminded that the wrong Cooper came back from the Black Lodge, and that some time later he left Twin Peaks, never to return, but no more than that. The bomb in the Bank in the last episode did kill Pete Martell (RIP Jack Nance) and Andrew Packard, but only injured – critically – Audrey Horne.
Hank Jennings is also dead, Catherine Martell moved away, but otherwise we only get histories that amplify, and in one case completely re-orient, the backgrounds of the people we watched a quarter century ago (and in that one case, the character is confirmed as being dead, physically, but you, me and I know that she was last seen trapped in the knob of a chest of drawers, so I have my hopes).
So if you’re a Twin Peaks fan, go out and buy this book. I have no doubt that you won’t need it in order to understand season 3, assuming season 3 is an Understandable Thing, about which I am taking no bets whatsoever, but I rather expect you’ll find it incredibly useful.
Now, do I have time to rewatch the DVD box set before May?