Contributor Spotlight: Jacob M. Appel

“The Bigamist’s Accomplice,” a short story by Jacob M. Appel, appeared in Issue 23 and can be read here.

We’d love to hear more about this story.

As a physician, I have grown inured to many of the tragedies that I encounter in the hospital:  unexpected illness, premature death, intractable pain. But one of the saddest phenomena to behold—and one I will never get used to—is an elderly husband or wife grappling with the impending loss of a life partner.  Dementia makes these even more unsettling. I am always impressed with the depths of love people can have for each other long after lucidity is gone. My own late grandmother visited my grandfather daily in his nursing home long after he ceased to recognize her.  But great love stories are about sacrifice, so I asked myself what kind of sacrifice the healthy spouse could make under such circumstances – and standing back to allow their partner to fall in love with another patient seemed the most heart-wrenching sacrifice one might make.  From there, this story was born…..

What was the most difficult part of writing this story?

The consonants were easy.  I struggled with the vowels.   Eventually, Pat Sajack and Vanna White came to my rescue – but it cost me dearly.

Recommend a book for us which was published within the last decade.

I loved Michael Dahlie’s The Best of Youth and Lindsay Starck’s  Noah’s Wife, but I suppose other people didn’t like them as much as they liked Fifty Shades of Grey or the Harry Potter series, which is why we’re in this mess.   That being said, there’s really nothing out there quite like Kevin Brockmeier’s A Few Seconds of Radiant Filmstrip: A Memoir of Seventh Grade, which should be required reading for everyone who never recovered from junior high.

If you could have a drink with any living author, who would it be? Why?

I don’t actually drink, but I could make an exception if you’ll count the writer of Ali MacGraw’s autobiography as a living author.  Especially if this drink occurred in a candlelit restaurant. Why? If you have to ask—to steal a phrase from Louis Armstrong—you’ll never know.

What are you working on now? What’s next?

In my other life, I am a professional bioethicist.  I have a book forthcoming with Algonquin, Who Says You’re Dead?, that merges my interest in medicine and ethics with my love of storytelling.  It contains seventy-nine narratives of unusual ethical dilemmas from the hospital along with non-normative discussion of how various historical figures, celebrities, experts and courts have handled these scenarios.  I am also working on cold fusion in my basement – but please don’t tell the authorities.

Our thanks to Jacob for taking the time to answer a few questions and share his work. Read Appel’s story, “The Bigamist’s Accomplice,” here:


Jacob MAppel is the author of four literary novels including Millard Salter’s Last Day (Simon & Schuster/Gallery, 2017), nine short story collections, an essay collection, a cozy mystery, a thriller and a volume of poems.  His collection of ethical dilemmas, Who Says You’re Dead?, is forthcoming from Algonquin Books.   Jacob currently teaches at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City.  More at: