Tuesday, April 10, 2012


Black Wings is a fascinating novel written by CDR Kathleen Jabs, a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, about the lives of three young female naval officers. The narrative shifts between details of events early in Academy life and later in their careers. The US Navy is an old institution with a profoundly male identity and traditions dating back to the British Royal Navy. Women had a difficult time gaining acceptance into this masculine fraternity. The action in Black Wings takes place in the 1980’s and early 90’s when female Midshipmen were still new. They often faced deep resentment, hazing and scorn by male Mids. Jabs brilliantly brings out the struggles of young women trying to survive this environment to become Naval officers while also maintaining personal and gender pride. She has written an exciting novel of intrigue (no details–don’t want to spoil the surprise) and romance loaded with meticulous, realistic plot details that display the author’s wealth of Navy experience and keen powers of observation. Black Wings is an intelligent, powerful, and thought-provoking novel.”
- Edward W. Jewell, CDR, USN (ret)

“Part thriller, part whodunit, I couldn’t put the book down.”
- Todd Balf
The Last Jungle, The Lost River

“I don’t know but I’ve been told, Naval Academy novels are made of gold … At least Black Wings seems that way.”
- Alan Cheuse
Song of Slaves in the Desert

“Told in taut, fast-moving chapters, Jabs’s suspenseful novel rings with authenticity.”
- Jon Peede
publisher, Virginia Quarterly Review

“A chilling, fast-paced, and intelligent story, wonderfully written.”
- Susan Shreeve
A Student of Living Things

“Compelling mystery told with the authenticity that can come only from an author who knows the territory. A terrific addition to current, military fiction.”
- Tom Young
Silent Enemy, the Mullah’s Storm


Virginian-Pilot Article
January 8, 2012

Published Book 'Black Wings'
Naval Academy grad spins a novel of military intrigue

By Irene Bowers


In the rigidly defined world of a fictionalized 1980s-era U.S. Naval Academy, a female underclassman struggles to live up to an honor code that allows no middle ground.

After graduation, the now junior officer is tasked with handling media relations on a story that may mask a scandal and finds that the military model of justice is still subject to error and possible abuse.

Intrigue follows in the debut novel “Black Wings,” written by Virginia Beach resident and 1988 Naval Academy graduate Kathleen Toomey Jabs, who traces the challenges and choices of the book’s protagonist, Lt. Bridget Donovan, with a deft hand.

Jabs, who graduated from the academy 12 years after females were integrated, is also a Naval reservist and serves as a public affairs officer for the Joint Staff. She said her military career allowed her to write the novel with authenticity.

“However, it is entirely fictional,” she said, noting that none of the events or characters are based on actual people, places or incidents. “It started as several short stories in a writing program in 2001, where my professor would say it was a novel in the making.” Later, as a Master of Fine Arts candidate at George Mason University, Jabs was inspired to turn her short stories into a 500-page novel. “Then it went out into the real world of publishing,” she said. “After multiple revisions, I was told it wouldn’t work, so I put the thing in a drawer and moved on.”

A busy mother of two teenagers and wife of an active-duty military member, Jabs ignored the story until she was contacted in 2008 by a former Naval Academy instructor, who had started a publishing house.

“She read it and suggested that I rewrite it as a mystery,” said the Thoroughgood resident, who then became a writing sleuth of sorts at home.

“There were days when I had it spread around the floor like a puzzle, trying to figure out how to add tension and still make sense of it.” The result is a mystery that goes beyond a whodunit. After the introduction of a suspicious death on an aircraft carrier, readers are carried into the insular world of the Naval Academy community on black wings, a fictitious blackening of aviator pilot’s gold wings insignia.

An ominous warning sign, black wings overshadow the fine line between justice and vengeance, integrity and dishonor. Released in December by Fuze Publishing, “Black Wings” is billed as “an intelligent, thought provoking novel.”

“It’s thrilling and slightly nerve-wracking to be published,” said Jabs, who is contemplating a sequel for her main character. One benefit, she admits, was holiday gift-giving.

“It made Christmas for my family easy – they all got a copy.”

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