The History, Meaning and Magic of GPS – now in paperback or eBook

From award-winning science writer Jim Carrier comes the remarkable story of GPS – an invention so woven into the fabric of modern life we can’t imagine civilization without it.

A troubled child of the Cold War, satellite navigation was created to aim nuclear missiles. Today, it is also used to find grandma’s house, guide drones, track packages, plant crops, spy on each other, and keep time. We take it granted, like we do electricity, unaware of how it almost didn’t happen.


Jim Carrier, a veteran writer, contributor to the New York Times and the National Geographic, transatlantic sailor, and a GPS entrepreneur, provides the first easy-to-understand primer on the fascinating history and vital importance of this civilizing tool. With 25 photos and illustrations.

Available as a 54-page paperback for $5.99 from Amazon.

The book can also be ordered from your favorite bookstore: ISBN-13: 978-1540354945 (CreateSpace-Assigned). ISBN-10: 1540354946

Also available as an eBook at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBook, Kobo and Google books.

Now available for E-book download: Down the Colorado

Jim Carrier’s second book, which chronicled his 1,400-mile odyssey from the snowfields of Colorado to the deserts of Mexico, has been republished as an E-book.

down-the-colorado-coverDown the Colorado – Travels on a Western Waterway, explored the characters, conflicts, history, costs and issues of water in the desert West.

Begun as a summer-long series, three columns a week on the front page of the Denver Post, Carrier, aka “Rocky Mountain Ranger,” traveled by snowshoe, rafts, dories, houseboats, outboards, hiking boots and his trusty Jeep, from the river’s 14,000-foot headwaters in Rocky Mountain National Park to its sea-level outlet in the Gulf of California.

The idea behind the original journey in 1987 was to combine a journey with issues that surround water in America’s most arid region. Though wild and remote for much of its course, the Colorado is plumbed to death, literally sucked dry, to slake the thirst of agriculture and urban growth in the American South West.

In the years since its publication in 1989 numerous books, articles and documentaries have revisited the river’s story, yet all the issues raised in this book remain. The onset of global warming has made them even more contentious.

Down the Colorado is available for $5.99, as a downloadable eBook from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Google books and Kobo.


Shrimp: so cheap and yet so costly — read the story behind the riddle.

Holiday parties, football games, celebrations of any kind sparkle with a big platter of shrimp.

Served on ice with a splash of cocktail sauce and spritz of lemon, there is nothing that exudes luxury and generosity like shrimp. Guaranteed — they will be gone in minutes!

Shrimp — The fruit of the sea.

Guess again.

All You Can Eat cover

In this expose and history of the shrimp fishing industry, science reporter Jim Carrier details how shrimp devolved from rare, pricey, hand-caught seafood to an industrial commodity raised in salt water feedlots.

Carved from environmentally sensitive wetlands, filled with antibiotics, pesticides and animal waste, shrimp ponds in poor tropical countries now supply the first world with 90 percent of its shrimp. Fed with ground seafood and grain, these shrimp are packed into shiny cartons by poorly paid, often slave, laborers under conditions that would turn your stomach.

Protests from indigenous fishermen have led to their murders.

Researched for a year along the Gulf and California coasts, underwritten by a grant from the Fund for Investigative Journalism, All You Can Eat is the first attempt to peel back the facade of picturesque shrimp boats seining delicacies from the ocean.

Shrimp drawingFirst published in Orion magazine, and included in Best American Science and Nature Writing 2010, All You Can Eat is updated and revised with Web links and pointers on shopping for shrimp.

The 5,000-word eBook is available, for $2.99, at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Google Books and Kobo.

Here is a recent investigative report from the Associated Press on the shrimp-packing slave trade.


CHARITY – The Heroic and Heartbreaking Story of Charity Hospital in Hurricane Katrina. $2.99 eBook or $10 paperback

Charity coverAug. 29, 2015 marked the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Lost in the long aftermath of the storm’s deadly destruction, scandals and even, at one hospital, euthanasia, stands the heroic story of Charity Hospital, the country’s oldest hospital.

     CHARITY is my latest book – a gripping, 25,000-word read, available as an instant download from all major sellers – Amazon, Barnes &Noble, iBooks, Google Play, and Kobo.

     It is also available as a paperback, $10 from Amazon.

    With a new afterward: Where are they now? Updating the life stories of the storm’s heroes: doctors, nurses, staff – and patients. With a sketch of Charity’s replacement hospital open Aug. 1.

    Pieces of the Charity Hospital story were reported during Katrina and its immediate aftermath. What has never been told is the remarkable five-day transformation of an infirm institution, caught in a sea of death and indifference, into an island of care and tenderness.

    Cut off from medical gizmos, cast loose by government, Charity’s manifest found themselves in a boat together. They did not sink into chaos. They found humankind, affection and love. Only that can explain why Charity, with the sickest of the sick, lost the fewest lives – 8 out of 154 reported deaths at flooded health care institutions.

    Katrina, as storms do, washed away illusions and exposed weaknesses: the levees, the morally gutted police, a rickety infrastructure, a fragile society that had been living for generations on the take and on the come, and a city – and a state and a nation — that could not, or would not, care for its own. Charity’s frailties were laid bare, too; it was a sick, white elephant.

    In the wake of Katrina, with the hospital a dark hot tomb, its staff laid off and dispersing, an official ambivalence about rebuilding Charity eerily echoed the larger debate about rebuilding New Orleans – and provided health care for the indigent.

In retrospect, the sense of doom is excruciating. Having lived through it by evacuating my Lakeview home, having watched (from afar) the storm roar past, and the slow tsunami that drowned my dreams, emptied New Orleans and left Charity art deco carrion, drama is an inadequate word. The hour-by-hour recreation of this hospital’s final days is one of the most grievous and heroic stories in American history.

What survived, and soars, is this: In a dying city and dying hospital, lives were changed. Patients rose up and lived. Doctors, deprived of their technical toys, embraced the patients – for hours on end. Numbers became human beings, on both sides of the air bag. As if struck by angels, people walked out of Charity changed.

Cover design by Michael Sanborn. Cover photos by Mooney Bryant-Penland (doctor in canoe) and Penny Weaver (Charity today)


The Civil Rights Trail heats up

This year’s 50th anniversary of the “Bloody Sunday” in Selma, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 has prompted a new wave of visitors to civil rights sites.

Meredith, the publisher of Parenting and Family Fun, published an article about a family that visited the historic sites with their children, guided by my book, A Traveler’s Guide to the Civil Rights Movement.

CR articleHere is the link to the full article:


The death of Darrell Winfield, the most famous of the Marlboro Man cowboys, prompted a piece in Ad Week about my series, “In Search of the Marlboro Man.” Thanks to Richard Horgan for mining the morgue:

When the Rocky Mountain Ranger Met the Marlboro Man

By Richard Horgan


In January of 1991, Jim Carrier authored a sweeping eight-part series for the Denver Post titled “In Search of the Marlboro Man.” He was, at the time, the paper’s Rocky Mountain Ranger, the kind of beat that just doesn’t exist anymore. As Carrier puts it in his current bio, that quixotically titled job of reporting on the American West ran him through “500,000 miles, 7,665 sunsets and 87 pairs of Levis.”

Carrier’s Marlboro quest, carried out before Google search and with Philip Morris going out of its way not help, wound its way to the most iconic Marlboro Man of them all – Darrell Winfield (pictured). The Wyoming rancher, who did his first campaign for Leo Burnett and Marlboro in 1968, passed away this week at age 85.

Although Winfield was more than happy to spend time with Carrier, he told the reporter it could not be in the form of an interview. So Carrier put away the notebook and just soaked everything in. From the end of Part 8:

As we re-entered the [Native American] sweat lodge, I realized my search was over. I’d looked on the billboards, in the hat shops, in rodeo shutes and wide open ranges, in museums, books and minds of the West for this Western man.

But I’d learned that who he was came not from his hat, his set on a saddle or – least of all – the brand he smoked. The cowboy beside me was just one I’d found, and it had nothing to do with his looks.

What I’d been seeking was the soul of the West, embodied in its people. As the water was sprinkled and steam rose again, I knew I’d found the Malboro Man.

Thus culminated a daily newspaper series that reads today as authentically journalism old-school as Winfield was, evidently, authentically Old West. RIP.

Here is the Ad Week blog link.

Dena Epstein 11/30/1916 – 11/14/2013

Dena Epstein, the famous music librarian who opened our eyes to African American musical culture, died Nov. 14 in Chicago. She was 96.

As her mother, Hilda Satt Polacheck wrote, “On the morning of Thanksgiving Day 1916, our second child was born, a dimpled girl whose eyes were as blue as gentians. We had much for which to be thankful.”

Indeed we all did.Dena interview

In the 1970s, after 25 years of research on her own, Dena published a series of papers and her monumental book, Sinful Tunes and Spirituals: Black Folks Music to the Civil War, which shattered myths that African slaves arrived in the Americas “culturally naked.” She documented a musical culture among Africans and African-Americans that was rich with song, dance and instrumentation.

I was fortunate to have interviewed Dena in 2009, and produced a film about her work. THE LIBRARIAN AND THE BANJO premiered in April 2013, and is now available on DVD. Click here to watch a trailer, and read  details.

A memorial for Dena will be held in Chicago at a future date.


The Librarian and The Banjo premieres in New York


For Immediate Release Oct. 3, 2013

THE LIBRARIAN AND THE BANJO, the inspiring story of a music librarian who literally wrote the book on slave music in America, will make its New York film premiere Oct. 11 and Oct. 13 at two screenings in Brooklyn.librarian_banjo_type_bw

The 56-minute film tells the story of Dena Epstein, now 96 years old, whose trailblazing scholarship was the first to take on the old myths about the banjo and prove its African-American origins and West African roots. Her work shattered myths about the roots of American music, and has been described as “monumental.”

Chosen for the CBGB Film Festival, the documentary will be screened Friday Oct. 11, 8:30 p.m. at indieScreen in Williamsburg. The film will be followed by a Q&A with the director, Jim Carrier, and banjo performances by six of the movie’s subjects. The venue, 289 Kent Avenue at S. 2 Street, is described by New York magazine as a “cinephile’s dream.”

On Sunday Oct. 13, the film is the centerpiece of an afternoon workshop and performance at Jalopy, the renowned theater and music school at 315 Columbia Street. Starting at 1 p.m. banjo historians will outline Dena’s pioneering work, show the film and finish with a performance of banjo styles covering the entire spectrum of banjo history, from gourd to bluegrass banjos. Performers include Shlomo Pestcoe, Greg Adams, Pete Ross, Tony Thomas and other guests.

Dena Epstein, front, with the Carolina Chocolate Drops in October 2009

Dena Epstein, front, with the Carolina Chocolate Drops in October 2009

The LIBRARIAN AND THE BANJO features interviews with Dena, academics, banjo historians and musicians including the Carolina Chocolate Drops, Bela Fleck, Tony Trischka and Eric Weissberg. The soundtrack, from dozens of banjo players, includes music on gourd akontings, minstrel instruments and bluegrass banjos. Among featured artists are Stephen Wade, Sule Greg Wilson and Pura Fe.

Among music historians interviewed in the film are: Bill Ferris (former NEH chairman), Bob Winans, Tony Thomas, Greg Adams, Laurent Dubois, Bobby Fulcher and Daniel Jatta.

For more information, a trailer, reviews and DVD sales, visit the film’s Web site: Or visit our Facebook page.

For press interviews and artwork, contact Jim Carrier at 608-467-2662, cell 703-408-5924 or by email: