Max McCoy is an award-winning author and journalist. A native Kansan, he started his career at the Pittsburg Morning Sun and was soon writing for national magazines. His investigative stories on unsolved murders, serial killers and hate groups earned him first-place awards from the Associated Press Managing Editors and other organizations. McCoy has also written more than 20 books, the most recent of which is "Elevations: A Personal Exploration of the Arkansas River," named a Kansas Notable Book by the state library. "Elevations" also won the National Outdoor Book Award, in the history/biography category. Max teaches journalism at Emporia State University.
For 150 years, ‘Home’ has been wherever you sing this song
By: Max McCoy - January 23, 2022
Brewster Higley is an enigma. When he came to Kansas in 1871, he was already pushing 50, so frontier life must have been a special challenge. Higley was a physician, what we would today call an ear, nose and throat specialist. But in rural and remote Smith County, up near the geographic center of the […]
Week 98: A window facing north
By: Max McCoy - January 16, 2022
You could feel the dread rolling over us like a cloud. There was a somber quality to all of the past week that imbued every sight and sound with a peculiar gravity, a murmuring at the edge of our consciousness that whispered despair. The weather was mild and the sunsets were pastel and I should […]
Ten books every Kansan should read. Sorry, Dorothy.
By: Max McCoy - January 9, 2022
There must be 6,000 books in our house on Constitution Street, and they overflow from shelves as if they were multiplying on their own. They represent the cultural life of a pair of individuals who separately immersed themselves from an early age in literature and, eventually, came together as a couple in an explosion of […]
My Kansas hometown was tagged with swastikas. We shouldn’t tolerate even casual displays of hate.
By: Max McCoy - January 2, 2022
Maybe it was because I’d just picked up Kim from Union Station in Kansas City, and had time to ponder the grim symbolism of a genuine World War II-era German freight car temporarily installed outside. The car is part of the touring exhibit, “Auschwitz. Not Long Ago. Not Far Away.” Perhaps it was the current […]
It’s the year that was. We need a Rockwell scale to make sense of it.
By: Max McCoy - December 26, 2021
As the year skitters to an end, there will come a torrent of top 10 news roundups. Caffeine-fueled news junkies in newsrooms everywhere will count the stories down like the seconds before the New Year’s Eve ball drops at Times Square. But making sense of it all will take more than a list that can […]
A Christmas letter to the undiscovered country
By: Max McCoy - December 19, 2021
Phil, You’ve been away for a good long while so here’s a Christmas letter to catch you up on all the news you’ve missed. So much has changed. Time steals like a shadow over the living, rendering us all Henry Adams at history’s eclipse. There’s much I want to share, because you could have helped […]
Welcome to Day Zero. Now let’s rebuild America’s civics infrastructure.
By: Max McCoy - December 12, 2021
Joe Biden came to Kansas City last Wednesday to tout his $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill. In a chilly bus barn on the Missouri side of the line, the president delivered a folksy, sometimes rambling speech about the bill, which he signed into law last month. It means billions of dollars in Kansas and Missouri […]
One weird trick for backsliding democracy: Read banned books
By: Max McCoy - December 5, 2021
We’ve been buried by a blizzard of news lately. So much has happened — special anti-mandate legislative session, Supreme Court poised to reverse Roe v. Wade, omicron variant popping up across the United States — it’s difficult to choose just one target in the shooting gallery of opinion. But let’s step back for a moment […]
In 1923, a Kansan saw a fireball overhead. He helped popularize a new science.
By: Max McCoy - November 28, 2021
Look up. The Kansas sky on a clear winter’s night is a picture window to the universe. Seek out a place where, as the astronomers say, the seeing is good — my local favorite is the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve near Strong City — and you can peer into a star-spangled slice of the Milky […]
Love, rage, cranberry sauce. Welcome to the week that has it all.
By: Max McCoy - November 21, 2021
It’s that time of year again when we’re supposed to gather together and count our blessings, but a lot of us aren’t feeling particularly thankful on this second pandemic Thanksgiving week. I don’t have any particular gratefulness metric to share with you, other than what we’ve all observed: a smoldering anger burning American life, beginning […]
Want to avoid a repeat of February’s billion-dollar energy crisis? Transparency is the first step.
By: Max McCoy - November 14, 2021
Back in September I filed an open records request with the Kansas Corporation Commission for contracts and invoices related to the February 2021 cold wave, which drove wholesale natural gas prices through the stratosphere. It was the kind of request that journalists routinely make in the public interest. We seek information from governmental entities to […]
We’ve never been here before. We’ll be judged on what we do next.
By: Max McCoy - November 7, 2021
They say outer space has a smell, and it stinks. Astronauts who have come back from space walks have described the smell as oily meat. Or gunpowder and gym socks and rum. Or welding fumes. The space walkers have a hard time describing exactly what the smell is like because, reportedly, it’s not like anything […]