Sunday, September 13, 2015

Thoughts on 'The Autobiography of F.B.I Special Agent Dale Cooper'

My Life, My Tapes

As heard by Scott Frost

Starting on Dale Cooper's 13th birthday, when he receives his first audio recorder, My Life, My Tapes parallels The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer and suggests that Bob might have been after Dale all along.

Somehow I missed this book when it first was published. I honestly can't believe that being such a Twin Peaks nut I waited so long to read it. It's the only piece of Twin Peaks anything that I never explored before. However the book's been out of print for years and even used copies are pricey so I never tried that hard to read it. However after rereading Laura's Secret Diary this past spring, I felt determined to get my hands on My Life, My Tapes and I'm so glad I did.

When the book begins we learn that young Dale was very different to the Cooper we come to know in the series. In fact reading through the mind of a teenage boy, even a unique and clever one such as Dale, was actually very humorous. The composed FBI agent we come to meet in Twin Peaks actually started out like most teenagers do, preoccupied with sex. In fact, his escapades with girls growing up seem to be the center point of his troubles. Throughout the book Dale talks about several girls who impacted his life up to meeting Windom Earle's wife, Caroline. Most of Dale's sexual and dating experiences were unique, sometimes dark and often left him frustrated, sad and heart broken. 

Early in the book, during a period when he's sick with asthma, Dale dreams of a man who tries to get into his room. He describes the man as roaring like an animal and saying he wanted Dale. When Dale tells his mother about the dream, she explains to him that she knew the man too and warns Dale never to let him in. Similar to Sarah Palmer, Dale's mother has haunting dreams of doom. She later dies of a brain aneurysm suspiciously. After her death, Dale dreams of his mother and upon waking finds a small gold ring in his hand. 

The book parallels Laura's Diary in a sense, because My Life, My Tapes is basically Dale's audio diary. Similar to how there are pages torn out from Laura's diary, there are time gaps in My Life, My Tapes where Dale didn't record anything. It appears during some of those times, Dale experienced things that effected him significantly. For example after a gap of one year during Dale's college tenure he says, "Evil does have a face."

My Life, My Tapes also offers several intriguing insights of note. 

Diane is Real 

The book makes it clear that Diane is a real person. This is also confirmed in The Missing Pieces footage where Dale speaks in person to an unseen Diane. In the book, we get to read a brief note from Diane herself, who describes having dinner with Dale Cooper once. Dale also makes extensive tapes to Diane in the book beginning from early in his career at the FBI. Its clear that he trusts her a great deal.

Windom Recruited Dale into the FBI

Dale extensively describes his relationship with Windom Earle in the book, including his affair with Windom's wife Caroline. There is an inference that Windom may have fallen under the spell of evil long before Caroline's death. Windom recruits him into the FBI and years later becomes Dale's partner. Dale's trusts him as a friend and Windom later teaches him the game of chess. Then Windom disappears for a period of time and when he returns, Windom claims he doesn't remember where he was. Later Caroline also disappears and upon returning can't remember what happened to her. Dale tries to help her and that's when they fall in love. Until one night when they are attacked by an unseen person. Dale is knocked unconscious and stabbed. When he wakes, Caroline is dead in his arms. Then Windom goes insane and is ultimately committed. For years after, Windom sends taunting notes and poems to Dale. This fosters Dale's suspicions about who kidnapped and killed Caroline. Fans know this continues when Windom arrives in Twin Peaks and begins his reign of humorous terror.

Dale Saved Dennis First

Dale talks about his work experience as a DEA agent. During that time, he was part of an incident where fellow DEA Agent, Dennis Bryson, was held hostage. They were working a drug operation in Mexico together that went bad. Dale ultimately saves Dennis with the aid of a hand grenade. After Dale decides the DEA isn't for him. A few years later, we know "Denise Bryson" comes to Twin Peaks and saves Dale at Dead Dog Farm. I guess she owed Dale one.

Where is Agent Desmond?

There are several differences in the book regarding the investigation of Teresa Banks' murder compared to what is shown in Fire Walk With Me. Sadly, there is no mention of Agent Desmond. In My Life, My Tapes Dale talks about doing the autopsy on Teresa and he finds the typed letter T under her fingernail. Being that the book was written prior to FWWM, maybe David Lynch decided to go in a different direction. Or maybe the books were never meant to be taken as completely factual. Either way, I'd love to know what happened to Agent Chester Desmond. Watch a clip --> here!

Dale & Laura had the Same Dream

Dale also talks about dreaming of a little man and a beautiful blonde woman shortly before he's called to investigate the murder of a girl found wrapped in plastic. He also confirms this in the series. Later Dale says that he'd seen true evil three times in his life: once as a child, once in college (which was during one of the missing years in Dale's life) and once during the time Caroline died. The last tape in the book is Dale telling Diane he's headed for a little town called Twin Peaks.

Take a listen here or below. This is from the Twin Peaks audio book 

How much these books will actually play in the show's mythology when the new episodes come out is unknown. Mark Frost's book (due to be released sometime in 2016) probably will fill in a lot of gaps, so that's a must read for me. The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer really adds to Laura's story and is a must read for Twin Peaks fans, but it mostly deepens what we already knew from the series and FWWM. However the suggestion in My Life, My Tapes that Bob was likely after Dale since he was an adolescent and may have been using Windom Earle for sometime to trap Dale, seems pivotal to where the new episodes will pick up twenty five years later. If the good Dale is trapped in the lodge and can't leave, like Annie says to Laura in FWWM, does that mean the bad Dale has been wreaking havoc on Twin Peaks for 25 years? It certainly will be interesting to find out.

See you in the trees!

P.S. For more on our Special Agent watch - - > Cooper's Story


  1. I suppose the most obvious answer as to why Desmond isn't mentioned in the book is because he was a last minute replacement Cooper substitute when Kyle MacLachlan decided he wanted a smaller role in FWWM. Originally, it would to have been Coop occupying his role in the film (apart from the disappearance, of course).

    1. That is true. However since Agent Desmond was in the film, he's now part of the mythology. Some say the first part of FWWM is Cooper's dream & agent Desmond isn't real. I'm not sure I agree with that, but its very intriguing!

  2. Why write in all centered, italicized text, and refuse to indent paragraphs?

    1. I didn't really think about that. Mostly going for a Twin peaks type look on these posts.

    2. You might try a comparison, weigh how much easier it is to read text in the comments, versus blog entries.

      Without standard formatting, the eye loses several cues to keep on track. I know my wandering eyes are an extreme case, and it's not as if you are USING ALL CAPS ;P

      When going for the Twin Peaks look, consider that signs are signs, meant to grab attention for a moment apart; sentences and paragraphs are a different kind of continuous engagement.


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  4. Really loved this book, but get the impression it might not be considered 'canon'. Which is a shame.

  5. Great blog. I'm a big fan of the Coop book too.
    I would consider changing the blog font by the way - the style (bold / italicise) does make it really quite hard to read.
    Which is a shame as it's great stuff!