Black Lawrence Press

Scouting for the Reaper

Appel Cover

Each of the characters in Scouting for the Reaper faces an unanticipated challenge:  transporting a truck load of  penguins across the country, arranging a proper Jewish burial for the  remains of Gregor Samsa, selling tombstones dressed as a Girl Scout.  These stories explore the domestic and professional adventures of people in over their heads, while leavening their struggles with humor.


  • Jacob Appel's stories echo with secrets. There are the secrets we keep from those closest to us, of course. Our parents, our doctors, our clergy, our ex-wives and unrequited loves. Any run of the mill story has those. Good stories traffic in the kind of secrets we keep from ourselves. Why, for instance, what and who we love are so close in content and character to what we can't abide. Appel's that kind of trafficker. Even better, throughout this fine collection, he is most concerned with still another kind of secret: that which, when revealed, doesn't solve anything. Like the very best stories, they carry the mystery forward. Revelation, in the end, isn't an end at all. It's a beginning. Scouting for the Reaper is full of such revelations. Here's hoping it signals the beginning of a long string of books penned by this talented polymath.

    —TJ Beitelman

Jacob M. Appel

Jacob M. Appel is a physician, attorney and bioethicist based in New York City.   He is the author of more than two hundred published short stories and is a past winner of the Boston Review Short Fiction Competition, the William Faulkner-William Wisdom Award for the Short Story, the Dana Award, the Arts & Letters Prize for Fiction, the North American Review’s Kurt Vonnegut Prize, the Missouri Review’s Editor’s Prize, the Sycamore Review’s Wabash Prize, the Briar Cliff Review’s Short Fiction Prize, the H. E. Francis Prize, the New Millennium Writings Fiction Award in four different years, an Elizabeth George Fellowship and a Sherwood Anderson Foundation Writers Grant.   His stories have been short-listed for the O. Henry Award, Best American Short Stories, Best American Nonrequired Reading, Best American Mystery Stories, and the Pushcart Prize anthology on numerous occasions.   His first novel, The Man Who Wouldn’t Stand Up, won the Dundee International Book Prize in 2012.  Jacob holds graduate degrees from Brown University, Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons, Harvard Law School, New York University’s MFA program in fiction and Albany Medical College’s Alden March Institute of Bioethics.  He taught for many years at Brown University and currently teaches at the Gotham Writers’ Workshop and the Mount Sinai School of Medicine.

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