Our Daily Bread 231: Mark Frost ‘The Secret History Of Twin Peaks’
November 28, 2016
Words: Dominic Valvona
Mark Frost ‘The Secret History Of Twin Peaks’
Bridging the 25-year gap and obviously drumming up suspense and anticipation for the third series of Twin Peaks in 2017, Mark Frost’s unconventional “novel” seems to suggest the writer secretly hankered for a job on The X-Files during the fallow years in which the story lay dormant. Expanding the original show’s remit, which he co-wrote and conceptualized with David Lynch, Frost has elaborated on the history of the town, its characters and their backstories. But most notably he’s weaved an ever-larger cobweb of intrigue and conspiracy; all threads leading to the cover up of what might or might not be extraterrestrial activity.
Speculation has run riot, as it inevitably does; cast members announced, plotlines and narratives drip-fed over the Internet. We do know this for certain. The story will revolve around an unearthed mysterious purpose-built container and its archival contents; handed over to female FBI agent Tamara Preston along with all of agent Dale Cooper’s notes on the murder – that sparked the whole sorry tale – of Laura Palmer. Sanctioned by “Coop” and Preston’s superior Chief Gordon Cole (played by Lynch himself in the series), our investigator must pour over the rich display of concatenate notes, scribbling her own footnotes in the margin; authenticating, alluding to more information or admitting they’re plain stumped as to what the hell is going on. All the time we the reader must wait until the final reveal; kept guessing as to both the author’s identity and the person who added their own narrative and stored these files in the first place. The reader then, is a mere observer, a voyeur; this report on a report only ever meant for a selective few.
Transcripts, cuttings, reports, letters and various clues all pieced together in a chronological timeframe feature a loose plotline by this mysterious guiding hand. Written as a quasi alternative history, Frost manages to embrace every one of the central tenants of the conspiracy theorem: the obligatory assassination of JFK, the Roswell UFO crash and, in this case, the centuries old struggle between an altruistic Freemasonry and its malcontent counterpart the Illuminati (incidentally symbolized by the owl) all make guest appearances. Tracing a psychogeography style story that stretches right back to the birth of America and pulls in the legendary explorers of the country’s undiscovered West, Lewis and Clark, real events are weaved into an intriguing tapestry; all of which originate from the unassuming Washington State pine wood hideaway of Twin Peaks.
Events of the last century however are more or less tied to the shady fortunes of Colonel Douglas Milford, one half of the incorrigible Twin Peaks Milford brothers. Fans of the series will have last seen poor Douglas sprawled out with a smile on his face after suffering a fatal heart attack on his wedding night. His betrothed, the extremely young intoxicative temptress Lana Budding (the “Milford widow”) if you remember kept the town’s menfolk in jaw-dropping awe, yet her backstory was never really explored; other than the fact this southern belle was probably on the make, her motives remained obscure, but after reading this novel may have been a lot darker. From a brush with a strange owl-like figure in the woods as a scoutmaster in the 1920s to placing him at the scene of near enough every recorded and unrecorded “close encounter” and alien abduction, Douglas Milford crosses paths with the Aleister Crowley apprentice and important rocket fuel scientist Jack Parsons and the Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard. A sort of investigator, prober and as it would turn out chronicler of these meetings, the outsider role that Douglas took on propelled him into the confidence of Richard Nixon, which opens up even more clandestine portals into the mind-blowing chasm of secrets. Without spoiling the novel’s outcome, let’s just say Douglas is tasked with a deep cover assignment that eventually brings him back to his hometown: where it all began. The baton is passed on and destiny seems to anoint a successor, who will in turn take on the duties of manning the mysterious alluded to “listening post Alpha”.
As you’d expect, Frost builds an even greater expansive conspiracy; answering a range of longstanding queries and questions but posing a whole set of new “what the fucks?” Fans however will discover just why the log lady, Margaret Lanterman, is so attached to her miniature pine chum; just what the hell did happen, back in the woods, with Major Briggs; the entire sorry saga of the Packard–Martell–Eckhart intrigues; Dr. Jacoby’s penchant for Hawaii and the purpose of those ridiculous red and blue tinted glasses he sports; and the fate of femme fatale Audrey Horne – last seen handcuffed to a bank vault door in protest as Andrew Packard, the aged eccentric bank-teller and Pete Martell unlock a safe deposit box only to find out it contains a bomb; the resulting explosion may or may not have leaving survivors. Which brings us back to the events that triggered all this, the brutal murder of Laura Palmer, killed in the end but molested throughout her life by her father Leland Palmer’s evil malevolent spirit “Bob”. Here it is a mere sideshow, the original supernatural, fight between good and evil forces, driven plot moving on to even bigger and far-fetched conspiracies. Agent Cooper, previously leaving the second series on a cliffhanger after his doppelganger escapes the “black lodge”, leaving the real Coop in perpetual limbo, is mentioned only briefly, his whereabouts remaining an enigma. To be fair, Frost is leaving this strand until the third series itself airs in 2017, as it was confirmed early on that Kyle MacLachlan who plays the beleaguered FBI agent is making a welcome return.
In amongst the “Bookhouse Boys” reading list, the Double R laminate menus and Dr. Jacoby’s credentials (which stack up most impressively), Frost taps into the conspiracy theory phenomenon. Fact and fiction entwine, the lines blurred to regale a good yarn. Misdirection is of course key: for instance, being led down the garden path with another elaborate cover story for an even more disturbing secret. Suffice to say the author has further muddied the waters.
Extremely clever and adroit, Frost’s changing prose and style fits a myriad of character’s voices. Ambitious, intriguing, it promises a whole lot of hokum, but enthralling hokum nonetheless.