Film Division


Yellow Jack

by Russell, Josh

Set in the 1840’s, YELLOW JACK tells the story of Claude Marchand, a young Frenchman who flees Paris, France with an amazing invention—the Daguerreotype, the original form of photography—and lands in New Orleans where Yellow Fever (Yellow Jack) rages through the city. The epidemic has led to fear, crime, economic and social mayhem, and death. The “Necroplis of the South” is crumbling . . . and Claude has a terrible secret about his past that he must protect at all costs.

Claude’s invention instantly captivates the unscrupulous Mayor of New Orleans, Francis Marmu. While Yellow Jack has killed thousands, Claude’s photographic studio has never been busier. Family members carry their recently deceased loved ones to his studio to take one last “memorial” photograph prior to burial. Marmu quickly makes a business deal with Claude, and as the death count rises, so do the profits. Marmu also seizes upon the “magic” of photography, and enlists Claude to document the Mayor’s efforts to “fight” Yellow Jack, as well as help create imagery that falsely supports that this epidemic is not nearly as bad as it appears to outsiders. New Orleans is open for business, and tourists need not be concerned.

While the city embraces Marchand and his fantastic camera, Claude falls madly in love with the mayor’s underaged daughter, Vivian. Their relationship becomes a torrid and secret love affair. Meanwhile, Claude fears that the secret of why he fled Paris has made its way to the editor of the local newspaper, Felix Moissenet, who suspects there is more to Claude Marchand than meets the eye.

When a French visitor from Claude’s dark past arrives in New Orleans with blackmail and revenge on his mind, Claude is forced to choose between financial riches and love, or exposing his political business partner as a criminal responsible for death and social and economic injustice—all the while trying desperately to outrun the haunting truth of his actions in Paris, and the consequences that await him should his true identity be revealed.

Book Reviews

Yellow Jack `{`has`}` considerable beauty and a complex wit.... The wit gives scintillating energy to the writing.... Mr. Russell portrays `{`New Orleans`}` with convincing imagination.... Penetrating asides enliven the social detail.... Mr. Russell's finest achievement is the froth in which passion in `{`his`}` Creole Moll Flanders churns along with desolate wit. There are any number of scenes remarkable not only for their shrewdness or power but for what is obliquely expressed or expressively withheld.
Richard Eder

The New York Times
Yellow Jack has a powerfully dreamlike atmosphere.... Russell's prose becomes a series of images, close to poetry in their intensity, further adding to the story's illusory quality.... Russell's virtuoso storytelling, evocative prose and original conception mark Yellow Jack as a significant work that we can only hope will be followed by many more.
Chris Petrakos

Chicago Tribune
Yellow Jack is Russell's first novel, and a flashy debut it is, too: authoritative, ambitious, stylistically elegant. He is an heir to Poe not only in shifty narrative technique but also in his stark, unsentimental depiction of New Orleans' plague and the citizens' decadent defiance of it.... the beginning of a serious, and seriously accomplished, fiction career.
Diane Roberts

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution