Every so often, a story comes along that absolutely captures the public’s attention. A TV show so good that you can’t wait to gab with your coworkers the next day about it. That is exactly where the phrase “Water Cooler TV” comes from. Today you can replace water cooler with Twitter, but it’s still television that begs to be discussed and dissected. As an audience, we like to feel that we are one step ahead, able to accurately predict whatever the show’s great mystery is.
Back in the ’80s, television was largely procedural. With notable exceptions like Dallas and Hill Street Blues, you could watch the good guys catch the bad guys and be left with no lingering questions to mull over. That is until David Lynch and Mark Frost’s Twin Peaks came along. The small-town murder mystery introduced us to a world of colorful characters and supernatural intrigue that became the template for episodic success for years to come. With each week, audiences were compelled to become amateur sleuths to try and solve who killed Laura Palmer. This was history-making television.
And while Twin Peaks‘ long-term effects have changed the landscape of dramatic television, the water cooler conversations have drifted to our current media obsession: true-crime. Ostensibly vaulted to current popularity thanks to Sarah Koenig’s podcast Serial, true-crime has been brought into the 21st century. With docuseries’ including Making a Murderer, The Jinx, and The Keepers, audiences can now utilize social media to project their insights on these cases out into the digital ether.
And with 2017’s Twin Peaks: The Return bringing a renewed interest to the mysterious Washington town, it’s no wonder that the true story that inspired the tragic fall of Laura Palmer is finally getting much-deserved attention in the form of a book, and soon, a television series of its own.
Blonde, Beautiful, and Dead: The Murder Mystery That Inspired Twin Peaks, an upcoming book by David Bushman and Mark Givens, has already been optioned by Part2 Pictures to be adapted into a docu-series. Featuring a foreword by Frost, the nonfiction effort chronicles the unsolved murder of 20-year-old Hazel Drew from Sand Lake, New York, whose body was found washed along the shore of Teal’s Pond in 1908. Like Laura Palmer, Drew was a young woman who potentially led a double life.
As a die-hard fan of Twin Peaks, I’m actually a little surprised at myself for only hearing of Drew’s story now. After many long nights of falling into internet rabbit holes trying to decipher the mysteries of the show, her name never once came up. But her case is striking in its similarities to Laura Palmer’s. Both women’s beauty was renowned, and both were found next to bodies of water. But the biggest inspiration is the apparent secret life that Drew may have had.
Investigators at the time found a trunk belonging to Drew filled with letters and dalliances connecting her to multiple men. This resulted in a revolving door of potential suspects, including Albany millionaire Henry Kramroth, who ran a nearby resort rumored to have secret orgies. I mean, if that doesn’t sound straight out of Twin Peaks then you must not remember Benjamin Horne and One Eyed Jack’s. But it’s not just the case’s intrigue that will make the docu-series a must watch, but also how Frost came to hear of the story in the first place.
Frost says that he was initially told of Drew’s story from his grandmother. She was known for her embellishments and turned it into a ghostly cautionary tale. A warning to anyone who may wander in the woods alone at night, most assuredly against the behest of their parents, that they may not return home. There are certain allusions to this type of Americana folklore in Twin Peaks, and we wouldn’t be surprised to see it interwoven in Blonde, Beautiful, and Dead. As we’ve seen with other true crime series, such as Errol Morris’ Wormwood and the true-to-life folk tales of Lore, an added flourish of style doesn’t have to diminish the strength of the nonfiction narrative.
Metabook, the publisher of the “Blonde, Beautiful, and Dead” book, is a company built on cross-platform storytelling. Which is exactly why they’ve already partnered with Part2 Pictures well before the book has even been released. The book will even have an original soundtrack tie-in, following a similar template as their release of Wally Lamb’s novel “I’ll Take You There.” And it’s exactly because of these added elements that Twin Peaks fans should be excited for Blonde, Beautiful, and Dead.
For years, the only additional clues we had to the mysteries of Twin Peaks were in “The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer,” a tie-in book released during the original run of the show that allowed fans to peek into the private journal of the titular dead homecoming queen. That book was a fun way to deepen fans’ curiosity in the town’s lore. When Twin Peaks: The Return aired, that series too was accompanied by a book, “The Secret History of Twin Peaks.”
Mixing different forms of media to complement the overall narrative has been woven into the fabric of Twin Peaks since its inception. With Blonde, Beautiful, and Dead, Metabook and Part2 Picture’s are simply keeping that tradition alive. And as a Twin Peaks fan, that’s just music to my ears.