cover image Wings


Karl Friedrich, McBooks (IPG, dist.), $23.95 (304p) ISBN 978-1-59013-570-9

Friedrich merges an often-neglected part of U.S. aviation history with a page-turning plot in his commendable debut. Sally Ketchum is a young East Texas aviatrix barnstorming her way across the South until her lover, the enigmatic Tex Jones, dies in a plane crash. Three years later, after Sally's father dies, she enlists in the Women Airforce Service Pilots program, a civilian corps charged with military flying duties within the continental U.S. to free male pilots for combat. While at Avenger Field in Sweetwater, Tex., Sally befriends ex-lingerie model Dixie Ray Beaumont and meets Beau Bayard, a flight instructor who falls in love with Sally. Mr. Skinner, a senior flight instructor and outspoken geezer, steals many scenes with his colorful tirades against the WASP's detractors, notably Ira Waterman, a hired gun sent by Congress to find any reason to shut down the program and who has particularly disdainful feelings toward Sally. Rich historical details add zest, and while Friedrich's heavy hand with technical details of airplanes and aviation verge on overload, the story remains an entertaining and spirited saga. (Apr.)