YELLOW JACK: A NOVEL

Josh Russell

Published by W W Norton & Co Inc, 1999
ISBN 10: 0393047687 / ISBN 13: 9780393047684
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Synopsis: Set in New Orleans during the 1840s, a novel of erotic adventure and human corruption follows an apprentice of Louis Daguerre from the studio of his mentor, where he has just participated in inventing photography, to America, where he uses the new art tophotograph the victims of yellow fever.

Review: When Claude Marchand first arrives in New Orleans in 1838, carrying the photographic equipment he's stolen from his mentor, Louis Daguerre, there is fever in the city:

I read in the French editions of the papers that the epidemic was in full fury, all that could save the city was October's cold. Almost half-a-thousand were dead. The papers claimed only the foolish or the mad would be out-of-doors at night, the time, it was agreed, during which the Fever was most likely to be acquired. The English editions, as I understood them, claimed news of an epidemic was a hoax, a lie, an attempt to slander the mayor.
Slander or no, yellow fever--called Yellow Jack by the local populace--provides young Marchand a good living; when he sets up shop as a portraitist, he finds much of his business deriving from memorial daguerreotypes of the dead. Soon Claude is living with Millicent, a mixed-race prostitute, but in love with 11-year-old Vivian, the daughter of a local businessman. Yellow Jack follows this rake's progress as he wins and loses each woman in turn yet is never quite free of either.

From the plays of Tennessee Williams to the novels of Anne Rice, there's something about New Orleans that encourages a writer's inner gothic; and Yellow Jack fairly drips with sex, corruption, death, and perversions of every persuasion. A trip to the opera results in a bloody deflowering behind heavy velvet curtains; the guests at a house party all wear blackface; a bereaved widower kills his dead wife's parrot when it can no longer mimic her voice. Yet, for the most part, Josh Russell doesn't let his story get away from him; his characters are so sharply drawn, especially Millicent, and the city so authentically reconstructed, that even the most melodramatic events seem weirdly appropriate. The result is a novel that entertains and disturbs in equal measure. --Alix Wilber

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Bibliographic Details

Title: YELLOW JACK: A NOVEL
Publisher: W W Norton & Co Inc
Publication Date: 1999
Binding: Hardcover
Illustrator: Fine
Book Condition: c032813
Edition: First Edition

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