Shoot the Horses First

Shoot the Horses First

“An immersive, expansive, and unforgettable collection of fictional histories.”

Kathy Fish, author of Wild Life

A debut
of short
by Leah

Winner of the Shorts Award for Americana Fiction

Through a historian’s lens and folkloric storytelling, the pieces in Shoot the Horses First revel in the nuances, brutality, mythology, and tiny victories of our historical past. A launderer takes us inside the linens of the richest families in early Baltimore. A child on the Orphan Train has his teeth inspected like a horse. Civil War soldiers experience PTSD. While one woman lands on an island of the Wampanoag tribe, a woman 200 years later finds Apache in a harsh frontier. Children survive yellow fever, the desert heat, and mistaken identities; men survive severed fingers, untested medicines, and wives with obsessive compulsive disorders. Frederick Douglass’ grandson plays violin at the World’s Fair on Colored American Day, a woman with disabilities is kept hidden away like she doesn’t exist, and a botanist is denied her place in a science journal because she is female. Themes of place, war, mental illness, identity, disability, feminism, and unyielding optimism throughout harrowing desperation resurface in this collection of stories that takes us back to time immemorial, yet feels so close, and all too familiar.

READ AN EXCERPT from “Casting Grand Titans”

The book
might appeal
to readers of

Alexander Chee, E. L. Doctorow, Paulette Jiles, Kathleen Kent, Neal Stephenson, Bernard Cornwell, James Clavell, Lalita Tademy, John Smolens, Patrick O’Brian, Arthur Miller, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, Genevieve Graham, Sarah Dunant, Geraldine Brooks, Charles Belfoure, Taylor Brown, Aline Ohanesian, Ian McGuire, Kathleen Grissom, Robert Morgan, Elizabeth George Speare, Sarah Vowell, Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell, Robert Louis Stevenson, Jack London, Kate Murdoch, Alexander Kent, Melanie Benjamin, Allison Pataki, TaraShea Nesbit, Stephanie Dray, Laura Kamoie, Kevin Baker, Hilary Mantel, Andrew Hilleman, Theodore Wheeler, Sara Donati, Winston Graham, Amber Sparks, Nina Shope.


This book depicts historical: racism, bad parenting, poverty, PTSD, Confederate viewpoints, misogyny, patriarchal systems, slavery, sexual situations, homosexuality, ethnic epithets, disease, mental illness, disability, amputation, death, othering and ostracization of outcasts, survival, and physical violence.

Cover design by Kernpunkt Press


Pre-order now

Table of

➠ Corner to Corner, End to End
➠ The Orphan Train
➠ Every Time It Snows
➠ Casting Grand Titans
➠ One Night, When the Breath of August Blew Hotter
➠ In Name Only
➠ Yellow Flowers
➠ A Lifetime of Fishes
➠ In the Blood
➠ New Mexico Farmhouse, Hard to Find after All Those Years
➠ Small Sacrifices
➠ The Desert Jewel
➠ A Cleaning to the Stovepipe
➠ The Light Ages; or, Holes in the Heart
➠ Every Step Counts
➠ Music Knows No Color

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“I’m astonished by the historical breadth in this collection of stories and by the sensibility that unites them. It’s a thrill to be dropped, so vividly, into such a wide variety of settings and periods—and even more of a thrill to discover the strong new voice of Leah Angstman. Read it!”

—Ethan Rutherford, author of Farthest South and The Peripatetic Coffin and Other Stories

“In Shoot the Horses First, Leah Angstman blasts readers from the Twitterfied nowscape into the manifest past—to an America connected by the burgeoning railroad and shattered by civil war. As inventive and complex as the era itself, these sixteen fictions of nineteenth-century friction contain surprises on every page. Whether it’s an impromptu snowball fight on a battlefield during a ceasefire or a wayward orphan finding hope at the end of the line, Angstman astonishes us with complicated characters and crystal-clear prose. She is the literary heir to Shelby Foote, Willa Cather, and E. L. Doctorow. Get off the internet and read this book!”

—Ryan Ridge, author of New Bad News, Hunters & Gamblers, and American Homes

“Rudyard Kipling said, ‘If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.’ Nothing demonstrates the wisdom of that better than Shoot the Horses First by Leah Angstman. This is an immersive, expansive, and unforgettable collection of fictional histories. Drawn from various points in America’s past and clearly well researched, these stories are harrowing and hopeful by turns. All through, there are unexpected kindnesses and betrayals and acts of heroism and transformation. Characters so deeply wrought they seem to leap off the page. Soaring and vast and lyrical, this book is a must-read.”

—Kathy Fish, author of Together We Can Bury It, Rift, and Wild Life 

“Angstman’s work is a joy to read. These characters see their worlds in the way that we see ours: naturally, and independent of the vastness of time in which life eventually situates itself in memory. Each one of these stories breathes troubling, beautiful life into the history that inspires it. The exhaustive research that must have gone into this collection lives in an easy harmony with the stories it undergirds, and it’s Angstman’s chief achievement here to strike that balance with poise and grace. Fear, love, heartache, and wonderment: it’s all right here, between both worlds.”

—Schuler Benson, author of The Poor Man’s Guide to an Affordable, Painless Suicide

Shoot the Horses First puts the ‘story’ in history. With scholarly rigor and the soul of a bard, Leah Angstman weaves tales of defiance and resilience that bring the past to life and show us what endures.”

—Jennifer Wortman, author of This. This. This. Is. Love. Love. Love.

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for Book Clubs

Leah has material packets, hosting ideas, discussion questions, recipes, and craft designs for all your book club needs. She’ll drop in for Q&As, virtual calls, book signings, discussions, workshops, and more. Plus, find out how you can get a book-club bulk discount.


  • Genre: Historical fiction ➤ Literary fiction ➤ Debut ➤ Short Stories
  • Publisher: Kernpunkt Press
  • Release date: February 28, 2023
  • Formats: Hardcover ➤ Paperback ➤ Kindle ➤ ePub ➤ Audiobook
  • Paper format: 6” x 9” ➤ 238 pages
  • Paperback ISBN-13: 978-1-7343065-9-0
  • Paperback ISBN-10: 1-7343065-9-9
  • Hardcover ISBN-13: 979-8-9865233-0-9
  • eBook ISBN-13: 979-8-9865233-1-6
  • Available everywhere books are sold and through all major online retailers
  • Booksellers: Available through Ingram and Asterism
  • Librarians: Available through OverDrive Catalog
  • Library of Congress Control Number: 2022913525
  • Cover design: Kernpunkt Press

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Blog &

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Media, news,
& reviews


  • JUL 21, 2022 ➤ The preorder page for the paperback version is now up on Kernpunkt Press. If you want the paperback, go preorder it now! Preorders help out an author more than any other type of purchase.
  • JUL 21, 2022 ➤ Goodreads page is up! Go rate and review!
  • JUL 5, 2022 ➤ Winner of the Shorts Award for Americana Fiction.
  • MAY 12, 2022 ➤ Finalist for the Shorts Award for Americana Fiction.
  • MAR 22, 2022 ➤ Shortlisted for the Shorts Award for Americana Fiction.
  • FEB 27, 2022 ➤ Deal listed in Publishers Marketplace.
  • FEB 25, 2022 ➤ It’s official! Leah’s debut story collection, Shoot the Horses First, written over a span of thirteen years, was accepted for publication today for a February 2023 release by Kernpunkt Press. The contract is signed, and onward we go.


  • No interviews yet. Please check back later.

  • JUL 25, 2022 ➤ Cover Reveal Day!

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review, exam,
or desk copies

Review copies are available in print, PDF, and ePub for those with promotional outlets who wish to obtain a copy for review, interview, and feature purposes. Print copies are limited and shipping is always expensive, so please request digital if that will work for you.

Exam copies (or examination copies) are available for teachers or instructors interested in teaching the book in a course. Print exam copies are limited and shipping is always expensive, so please request digital if that will work for you. Digital exam copies are also available for book club hosts who are interested in featuring the book as a book-club selection.

Desk copies are available only to teachers or instructors who are teaching the book in a course and did not receive a prior physical exam copy.

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If you are a general reader, the ebook will be available on Edelweiss+, NetGalley, and Book Sirens in the coming months. For hi-res author photos, media kits, teaching kits, press releases, &c., visit the media kits page. To contact publicists, agents, or publishers with inquiries, visit the contact page.

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Pay it

We can’t just write about worlds from the past; we have to help preserve them. A percentage of royalties from the sale of this book will go to the Coordinating Council for Women in History, the Association for Women in Science, the Expanding Your Horizons Network, the Ndé Bizaa’ Mescalero Apache Tribe Language Program, the Wôpanâak Language Reclamation Project, and the Mashpee Wampanoag Historic Preservation Department & Museum, who are all doing great things to make the world a better place—past, present, and future. But you can also help, while you’re here.

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