Join Wall Street Journal reporter Kris Maher on his quest

Unearth the alarming secrets

Erin Brockovich meets Dark Waters in this propulsive and heart-wrenching legal drama set in Appalachian coal country, as one determined lawyer confronts a coal industry giant in a battle over clean drinking water for a West Virginia community.

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What people are saying about Kris Maher's latest work.

Praise for Desperate: An Epic Battle for Clean Water and Justice in Appalachia

"Kris Maher’s real-life legal thriller about an Appalachian community’s fight for the right to clean drinking water will grip you from start to finish. It’s an astonishing tale that pits a tenacious, environmental lawyer against one America’s most infamous coal companies. Maher uncovers a trail of corporate greed and corruption on a monumental scale."

-- Eric Eyre, Pulitzer Prize winner and author of Death In Mud Lick: A Coal Country Fight Against the Drug Companies That Delivered the Opioid Epidemic

"Desperate is an exhilarating chronicle of what it takes to build a better world. Kris Maher’s brilliant reporting is the fuel behind this propulsive story of brass-tacks Appalachian justice, closely following a troubling case that forces us to face the hardest questions of public health and power. Its call for long-haul environmental accountability will resonate in every community that has been at the mercy of those who never seem to stop taking."

-- Anna Clark, author of The Poisoned City: Flint's Water and the American Urban Tragedy

"Kris Maher has written a deft, illuminating and often riveting account of a modern-day David and Goliath legal battle, expertly revealing the devastating consequences of regulatory disregard and corporate greed behind our energy policies. Timely as ever, Desperate gives us reasons to believe in the still small possibility of justice--and the unsung heroes fighting to defend our right to a glass of clean drinking water."

-- Jeff Biggers, author of Reckoning at Eagle Creek: The Secret Legacy of Coal in the Heartland

“A comprehensive account of the seven-year legal battle waged by residents of southern West Virginia against the state’s largest coal company… details of Thompson’s financial and marriage troubles make his battle to secure a $35 million settlement for his clients seem all the more heroic. Readers will be appalled at how hard these communities had to fight for a modicum of justice.”

-- Publisher’s Weekly

“[Desperate is] both a case study in exploitation of the little guy and a playbook for confronting it. A rigorous accounting of a remarkably hard-fought battle for clean water.”

-- Kirkus

“Wall Street Journal reporter Maher unearths the secrets of this community and the determination of lawyer Kevin Thompson as he attempts to uncover one of the most catastrophic environmental disasters in West Virginia’s history … Maher’s sharp, detailed prose reads like fiction … [a] gripping account.”

-- Booklist
The story of

Kris Maher

Kris Maher has been a staff reporter for The Wall Street Journal since 2005, writing about environmental issues, coal mining, labor, regional economics, and other topics.

He has reported on the Flint water crisis, PFAS drinking water contamination, and Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch Mine disaster. More recently, he wrote about the pandemic’s effect on families coping with remote learning. He covered the trials of Jerry Sandusky, Bill Cosby, and Don Blankenship and has also written features for the Journal’s front-page “A-hed” column on topics ranging from extreme pogo athletes to the coldest town in the U.S. He lives in Pittsburgh with his son and daughter. 

Kris Maher’s real-life legal thriller about an Appalachian community’s fight for the right to clean drinking water will grip you from start to finish.

Eric Eyre, Pulitzer Prize winner

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