This article contains spoilers for all of the Twin Peaks novels, including the recently released Twin Peaks: The Final Dossier.
The Twin Peaks novels, most released at the height of the shows popularity, aren’t traditional TV tie-in literature. They aren’t focused on background extras or telling one off adventures that couldn’t quite make the cut as episodes.
All five of the official novels are squarely focused on filling out the background of the Twin Peaks world (with one even hinting at the future). Uniquely though, this is not done through traditional stories but found media. Each of the books is some kind of record or peace of material you could actually find in Twin Peaks itself.
How much relevance do these books have? Are they must reads? Do they clear up confusing plot points or deepen the mysteries? Let’s see what little secrets we can find.
The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer
“That night is gone and I’m Laura again. Thirteen years old and the apple of my dad’s eye.” – Laura Palmer
As seen in the TV series, this book is the secret diary that Laura kept away from the world which had several pages torn out. It was the one given to Harold Smith that ultimately led to his death. We only ever heard a few scant entries from it and it was a rare chance to hear Laura Palmer in her own words instead of what others thought about her. The idea of getting to know Laura, especially what was going on inside her head, is a great idea that could only work in book form.
For being released at the zenith of Twin Peaks popularity (before the second season), this book is a brutal read and does not play it safe. A tale of molestation, descent into self-harm, and depression, the Secret Diary follows Laura throughout her childhood and confirms that BOB has been with her for her entire life. Take this early passage where Maddy visits with Laura and Donna and the three discuss French kissing.
“When I heard how you do it, I got a very strange funny feeling in my stomach. Different from… never mind. I got the feeling that I might like tongue-kissing and I’m going to try it with a boy I like as soon as I can.”
It’s clear that BOB (within Leland as Fire Walk With Me confirmed) has already done this to Laura and it was traumatizing. This book doesn’t sugar coat Laura being a victim of incest.
Laura tries to shove all her “bad thoughts” down to replace them with good. This leads to Laura’s dual nature with her public face as the homecoming queen and the secret face as the girl with a crippling addiction to cocaine.
As much as Laura tries to blame BOB for doing this to her, soon she begins to blame herself. Perhaps she allowed BOB in. Perhaps she caused all these bad things to happen to her. These musings are the toughest to read, as any one who’s been through abuse will recognize Laura’s destructive thought process.
When it all becomes too much, Laura decides to mentally cut herself off and to enjoy the pain instead of running from it. She makes this decision just before she has sex with Bobby for the first time, an event we heard about in the show. Bobby tearfully revealed that Laura laughed at him. Thanks to the diary we know why.
She didn’t want to show any weakness, she didn’t want BOB to know she had anything special, so she pushes Bobby away by mocking him. This destroys him and the Bobby Briggs we see in the series was defined by this moment.
The book also confirms that Laura is at least bi-curious, revealing she was attracted to Ronette Pulaski.
As with the series, the portrayal of BOB in the book can be interpreted a number of ways. You can read it literally, that BOB is a supernatural force that inhabits Laura’s father. You can also read it as Laura using the image of BOB to hide the knowledge that her own father is raping her.
BOB can also be read as critique on society at large, how men can sexualize young women and then demonize them for it. While the book is clearly set in the world of Twin Peaks, it could also be read as a standalone book for anyone who has dealt with great evil in their lives.
The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer is without a doubt the most essential of all the Twin Peaks books. It gives voice to a character that was merely an object in the series and even helps to make the confusing Fire Walk With Me a little easier to understand.
The Autobiography of FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper: My Life, My Tapes
“The pursuit of good, when combined with raging hormones, is a powerful force indeed.” – Dale Cooper
While the Secret Diary is a critical book for Twin Peaks fans, it’s a shame Cooper’s book has gotten somewhat lost over time. It’s understandable. Many of the plot elements that are relevant to Twin Peaks lore in this book are tied to the much maligned second half of the second season of the show. The book has long stretches that aren’t exactly the most relevant and instead concern young Cooper’s desire for sex.
Much of the first chunk of the book details Cooper’s teen years and college experiences. While there are a few nuggets of interest there it takes until well into the second half of the book to see Cooper at the FBI, a part of his life that more of the book should have been focused on.
Still though, even in those early life sections there’s a lot of joy to be had. In contrast to Laura’s teen years, Cooper has a much more inquisitive view of the world. He wants to explore and learn, even attempting to function without sleeping or going to the bathroom. It’s these moments of fun that set this book apart from the Secret Diary and makes it a nice follow up. The Twin Peaks world was full of darkness but it also had some amusing quirks this book brings to the fore.
Even in the FBI portions of the book there’s some fun to be had, with Cooper going undercover in a gay club and wondering why he has more luck with men than woman.
When the book does venture into darkness it isn’t quite as soul crushingly depressing as the Secret Diary. Cooper experiences evil and darkness in the world yet refuses to be drawn in by it. In contrast to Laura, Cooper resists the idea of using cocaine as a coping mechanism.
It’s even hinted that BOB or some other force like him has visited Cooper and his family. Early on he describes a dream where a man is outside his house and wants be let in. It’s here that we see a key difference between Cooper and Laura. Laura’s father, Leland, allowed BOB inside himself. Whether that was intentional or not is up to your interpretation of the series, but Cooper’s mother refuses to allow this man in and dies soon after.
The similarities between Laura and Cooper don’t stop there. In a dream Cooper is given a ring by his dead mother, as Laura was given a ring in Fire Walk With Me. There’s a lot to unpack there, but to keep it simple it suggests that Laura and Cooper form a circle within the universe of Twin Peaks and are connected. Cooper even has a dream about a blonde and a dancing little man before he comes to Twin Peaks.
For whatever reason, evil is drawn to Cooper throughout his life and it finally comes to a head with the introduction of Windom Earle. Cooper’s nemesis in the second season, a good section of this book is devoted to how the two met and why Windom hates Cooper so much. The series explains it well enough but like the Laura book, this fleshes those few expository bits of dialogue out.
It’s also fascinating just how much this book was setting up for the series finale that was ultimately scrapped by David Lynch and replaced with what we now have. In the original script for the final episode, Cooper and Windom have a major showdown within the Black Lodge and BOB appears as a dentist to extract Cooper’s soul.
In the book, much is made of Earle’s chess game and what happened with Caroline. Cooper even expresses a fear of dentists in a seemingly throwaway entry. Many of these elements became dead ends once the final episode aired, making this book a glimpse into “what would have been” for Twin Peaks’ original ending.
While the book tends to get lost in the weeds of Cooper’s early life, it still manages to be a lot of fun while also giving some crucial clues to the connections between Cooper and Laura. It may not be quite as essential as the Secret Diary, but give it a read if you’re a big fan of the mythology behind the series or just want more of everyone’s favorite detective.
Note: There was also an audio tape released that contained a few of Cooper’s recordings from the show itself and brand new material set during and just before the Twin Peaks series. None of these are from the book, but if you’re a hardcore fan they’re worth checking out if only to hear more Kyle Maclachlan as Cooper.
Twin Peaks: Access Guide to the Town
“The Twin Peaks Flower: The Pine Cone”.
There are two sides to Twin Peaks, the darkness and the quirkiness. The Secret Diary rested in the darkness while the Cooper book straddled the line between the two worlds.
The Access Guide exists purely in the quirkiness and suffers because of it. If you hadn’t noticed by now, I’m a huge Twin Peaks fan. I’ve seen the series damn near five times, own all the official books, a ton of books about the making of the series, and regularly listen to podcasts dedicated to it. I’m fully immersed in Twin Peaks and any chance to get a new piece of it I will jump on.
I struggled to get through the Access Guide. It’s not because it was bad or didn’t jive with the show; it was just boring. It has a few interesting tidbits here and there, like Norma’s recipe for cherry pie or why the chamber of commerce spent so much on the Fourth of July celebration (damn sack race law suits.) On the whole though, it’s a lot of pointless information.
The Access Guide is akin to a tie-in website for a major film or TV series. It has lots of information that will never show up in the property itself, but it’s there for hardcore fans to look for clues and maybe even some Easter eggs. While those are a nice little bit of promotion, they don’t exactly hold up to being released in book form.
Much of the books many entries don’t directly involve the Twin Peaks characters we know and love and that’s its greatest downfall. As much as I care about the world of Twin Peaks, it doesn’t work without it being grounded in the characters. The Secret Diary and Cooper book both work because they’re centered on people we know. Yeah, not all the information is critical but it helps us get to know the two and those around them better.
Maybe if the book had some bigger reveals about the mythology of Twin Peaks I would enjoy it, but as it is this book is for serious completists only.
The Secret History of Twin Peaks
“Jesus, if I kept those (books) here they’d think I’m some kind of a kook. Well, I am not a kook.” – Richard Nixon
Yes, Richard Nixon is a character in a Twin Peaks book. Let that sink in for a moment.
The Secret History of Twin Peaks is an extremely divisive book amongst Twin Peaks fans. Some hail at a mystery to be solved, one who’s meaning will slowly be uncovered over time. Others dismiss it outright, that it barely works within the Twin Peaks canon and has too many errors.
I tend to fall in the latter camp, with a few reservations. The two big problems with this book are that, like the Access Guide, much of it follows characters we don’t know or really care about and it has a lot of things that don’t line up with the series.
The book centers on Special Agent TP going over found documents that pertain to, well, the secret history of Twin Peaks. It spans from Lewis and Clark’s expedition to yes, Richard Nixon and his cover up of aliens. Dougie Milford, a minor character in the series, writes many of the documents. While I applaud the book for giving so much back-story to such a small character, most of his time is spent away from Twin Peaks investigating aliens.
While the existence of extraterrestrial life was hinted at in the series it was quickly debunked. The fact the book leans so heavily on UFO’s is disappointing. I don’t come to Twin Peaks for these kinds of conspiracy theories. Flying saucers don’t feel like they would be a part of Twin Peaks’ world and thankfully the third season didn’t include much evidence to support this idea.
The book also adds a lot of needless back-story that ruins a few of the characters. None are worse than what is done to the Log Lady, who was apparently abducted by aliens. If that’s true, it does a great disservice to the way she was portrayed.
In the series, the Log Lady wasn’t normal. She thought her log talked and spoke in riddles. This made her a memorable and fun character because she looked at the world differently than most people to do. To make that because of alien abduction just cheapens the character instead of some people just being a little different. Not everything needs an explanation after all.
Now maybe her being abducted by aliens was actually a way to interpret her being taken into the White or Black Lodge, but that’s giving a generous reading of the text.
Many of the other characters back-stories are merely restated from the series with some extra material but many of the facts are wrong. According to the book Norma’s mother is dead when she was clearly alive in the series. The Final Dossier tries to make this work but it just feels like it’s fixing a continuity error. More on that in a bit.
Another passage gets the entire courtship (or lack thereof) of Big Ed and Nadine completely wrong.
How can this book be so filled with errors? Sure, the other books had a few small errors when it came to certain dates but these are too big to ignore. Some fans have tried to explain these away as the documents being tampered with or even that the timeline was altered by the events of season three.
Okay, I guess that sort of works but why do we need a whole book dedicated to changes in the timeline and/or possible errors? Why should I care if the whole book could be a forgery or from the new timeline? (If you couldn’t tell, I wasn’t the biggest fan of the season three finale.) It makes even the few parts of the book that are intriguing, like learning Audrey survived the explosion or the presence of the ring, feel less significant.
The book becomes even more dubious when you learn that David Lynch admitted he never read it. Sure, there are a few connections you can draw with the new series to the book but it feels fairly disconnected. “TP” aka Tamara Preston seems like a completly different character in the book than she does in the show.
The whole book, especially after season three aired, is a frustrating read. It doesn’t shine any new light on the baffling mysteries presented in the new season, it just asks more questions. The idea of the book is great and perfectly lines up with the found media aspect of all the previous Twin Peaks books, but this one just feels like it missed the mark.
Only for hardcore fans, those that enjoy a seemingly impossible mystery to crack, or if you really like UFO’s.
Twin Peaks: The Final Dossier
Every year, once a year, on the anniversary of that day (Annie) was found in the woods, without prompting or responding to any inquiry directed to her, at precisely 8:38 in the morning she speaks that same single sentence to no one in particular.
“I’m fine,” she says.
For everyone who felt let down or confused by The Secret History (or the third season), The Final Dossier is what you’ve really been waiting for since Twin Peaks originally went off the air in the 90’s.
While it doesn’t resolve every mystery (nor should it) it does at least answer the dangling questions left by the original series finale and even clears up a few elements in the third season. Plus, it actually fills in the gaps between seasons two and three! What an idea!
Presented as case files written by Tamara Preston, The Final Dossier thankfully presents all of its content as straightforward case files. There’s no superfluous information or mind numbing entries about aliens.
The fates of damn near every major character are revealed and they’re all pretty damn satisfying. Leo Johnson did die but it wasn’t because of spider bites. “Tarantulas aren’t ever fatally venomous, dipshit; they just look scary” remarks Albert in Leo’s autopsy. Donna became a model and moved to the big city. Jerry Horne started a weed empire. Dr. Jacoby donates ninety percent of his Dr. Amp profits to charitable progressive causes. James… well, he certainly was never cool that’s for sure.
And what about Norma? How does the book resolve that continuity error? Okay, this is a kind of an asspull on the books part but go with me here.
Norma’s father actually married Vivian after Norma’s real mother died (which lines up with The Secret History). Then her father died. Then Vivian married another man who raped Annie. He died (good riddance) so Vivian remarried again to Ernie Niles. This brings us up to the original series where Vivian visited Norma, who was apparently so ashamed she didn’t bother to explain her complicated history with Vivian and just referred to her as “mother.”
That… That is so detailed and insane I kind of have to applaud the lengths Mark Frost went to make it work. It doesn’t totally make up for the original continuity error but points for trying to make it work.
Other entries are crucial to understanding the whole of Twin Peaks mythology. Judy finally gets a reasonable, for Twin Peaks anyway, explanation. Phillip Jeffries cryptic remarks finally start to make sense and seemingly confirm the deleted scenes from Fire Walk With Me are canonical to the series.
Perhaps the most satisfying entry of them all is Annie’s where we finally get the answer the original series was left on after over twenty five years.
If you read the above passage from the book, you know the answer. It’s heart breaking that she didn’t get a happier ending but in the world of Twin Peaks it’s rare anyone gets that.
To tie the whole thing up the Final Thoughts section of the book muses on some of the series’ biggest themes and even offers a possible mission statement for the entire Twin Peaks franchise. It’s a great one that leaves the book, and possibly the franchise, on a high note.
While talks of a fourth season will probably continue for years, if this is the last piece of new material on Twin Peaks I can say I’m satisfied. It doesn’t quite make up for the faults of the third season but it does make them a bit more bearable now that we know what happened to all of our favorite characters.
The book is a triumph for long time Twin Peaks fans, giving just enough information to satisfy the lingering questions from the second season and even provides some grounded evidence to help the third season make sense.
While not all of these books are one hundred percent needed to enjoy the series, they are perfect for fans who want to dive even deeper into the complex mysteries of Twin Peaks. The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer and The Final Dossier especially provide some much needed information that make both Fire Walk With Me and the third season easier to decipher.