Saturday, January 28, 2017

Book #4: The Secret History of Twin Peaks

Before I say anything about Book #4 for the year, Mark Frost's The Secret History of Twin Peaks, I'm going to give a warning: I cannot talk about this book without spoiling the book, the past seasons of the show and, possibly, spoiling the upcoming season as well. I'm saying that now so that, if this is important to you, you can go ahead and stop reading now and not have anything spoiled for you.

Spoilers ahead.

Not kidding.

OK, you had your chance. A couple of weeks ago, I read two other Twin Peaks books to get ready for the show coming back to Showtime this year. Not only am I excited enough about that to decide I'm going to get Showtime, but I also picked up "The Secret history of Twin Peaks" to see if it could tell me things I didn't already know. While reading it, I also started re-watching the original series again, and I have to say a few things about it before I say anything else:

1) The first season finale is an amazing piece of television. It doesn't solve the mystery of Laura Palmer's death, but it manages to take the plot threads of over twenty characters and tie them all together. It doesn't pay off all the plots, but it moves every single one forward if it doesn't conclude them, and it still offers cliffhangers leading into season 2.

2) It was slightly disorienting to see Madchen Amick as Betty's mom on Riverdale the other night after I just saw her as Shelly Johnson last weekend. I know I've seen her in other things since "Twin Peaks" ended, but it was just a weird jump to think that Shelly's old enough to be someone's mom now, and I wonder if she's going to be on the new "Twin Peaks" at all when she seems to be a regular on "Riverdale". Maybe she'll do both.

3) I'm up to Maddy's death in my re-watch. Decades later, it's still one of the most horrifying things I've ever seen on television, both because of the supernatural part but also because of the sheer brutality.

The book starts with a slightly interesting concept: it's a collection of documents assembled by a mysterious archivist, detailing the secret history of the town of Twin Peaks, which are being analyzed by an FBI agent who is not Agent Dale Cooper. At the beginning of the book, the archivist's identity is unknown, but it is revealed by the end. In between, the documents start as far back as the Lewis and Clark expedition before moving to the present day. Along the way, historical characters from Richard Nixon to L. Rob Hubbard drift in and out of the pages, but more exciting for fans of the show is that ancestors of the characters we know and love, and eventually some of the characters themselves, also pop up. As a reader, I expected to hear about some of them, like the history of the Log Lady's marriage and widowhood or the growth of the Horne business empire, but there were other, more surprising pieces, like the tale of Pete and Catherine's courtship and marriage, or an exploration of Josie Packard's sordid past.

The book also does a bit to set the stage for the new series by casually filling in the details of where a few of the characters have been since the last time we saw them. In some cases, this is a welcome surprise (the final time we saw Pete Martel, Andrew Packard, and Audrey Horne in the series, they were inside the bank when it exploded, for example, so it's nice to know who survived and who didn't), but in some cases it turns out to be a dark indicator that the character we know and love will not be the same people when we see them again.

This was at times a dense read, and it's definitely not for people who haven't watched the show. If you're a fan, though, this is fantastic, and probably essential reading.

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