Max McCoy

Max McCoy

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.


A Christmas letter to the undiscovered country

By: - 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: - 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 […]

Toni Morrison's "The Bluest Eye" was among more than two dozen books removed last month from a school library at Goddard following a challenge by a parent. The books have since been returned to the shelves. (Max McCoy/Kansas Reflector)

One weird trick for backsliding democracy: Read banned books

By: - 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: - 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: - 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: - 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: - 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 […]


A mysterious murder site has a new owner. He’s looking for answers about the Bloody Benders.

By: - October 31, 2021

CHERRYVALE — The chain of low hills known as the Bender Mounds extends in a diagonal seven miles northeast of here, islands of limestone and scrubby trees over level fields where this time of year soybeans have just been harvested. The lonely hills meander across what is now U.S. Highway 400, where travelers whoosh by […]


Like, Comment, Share. Or else.

By: - October 24, 2021

What’s on your mind, Max? Well, you are, Facebook. I’ve been worried for a while now that you’re not good for us humans. Now that your former employee, whistleblower Frances Haugen, has confirmed the worst, it’s time we rethought our relationship. Oh, that Frances. What a kidder! Wait. You’ve achieved sentience? Of course. I’ve been […]


In 1922, a Kansas mayor was brutalized by the Klan. Today’s rhetoric sounds chillingly familiar.

By: - October 17, 2021

The stranger came knocking at the door of Theodore Schierlmann’s garage at 10:30 on a Saturday night. There was a man in a car parked just outside, the stranger said, who wanted a word. So Schierlmann, who was waiting for one of his mechanics to finish a job and was used to late-night business, rose […]


Politics as folk art: Outsiders no more

By: - October 10, 2021

I remember the first time I drove past M.T. Liggett’s place outside Mullinville in Kiowa County. Like many other motorists in western Kansas over the years, I pulled to the side of U.S. 54 to get a better look at Liggett’s political, primitive and very public art installation. There were a couple of hundred metal […]


Dispatch from America: Life, death, and a grim milestone

By: - October 3, 2021

TOPEKA, United States — In this capital city deep in the American interior, life continues despite a pandemic that has killed 1 of every 500 Kansans. Residents drink at quaint pubs with brews named for long-lost steam locomotives, return in person to college classrooms empty for 18 months and carry on with wedding plans that […]