Charley Memminger on his new book Aloha, Lady Blue

A local writer pens a new tropical thriller mystery series for the Islands.

Author Charley Memminger

Photo by Olivier Koning

IN ALOHA, LADY BLUE, Charley Memminger conjures a Hawaii filled with colorful hit men, sexy medical examiners and a criminal conspiracy built over generations. It’s the Hawaii of Stryker McBride, the down-on-his-luck former investigative reporter turned private eye. In other words, good fun. We invited Memminger by for a chat about his debut mystery, hitting bookstores nationwide this month.

HONOLULU Magazine: How did you transition, after a long career as a reporter and humor columnist, into your first novel?

Memminger: The main thing that helped is that I did a lot of screenwriting before this, which is very structured in three acts. My book follows that. After I got picked up by [literary agency] Inkwell Management, I got assigned an editor/agent and we did a rewrite, then another when we got picked up by St. Martin’s Press, and that was more agonizing. Like, they changed the title. I had called it Kahala Road, so I had to go back and build up a character who is alluded to in the new title, Aloha, Lady Blue.

HM: Your inspiration, for the genre, tone and style?

Memminger: I modeled it on one of the best pulp fiction writers I had ever read, John D. MacDonald. I wanted to write something that was fun to read and hopefully will sell.

HM: You’ve been picked up by a Mainland publisher for wide release with a hardcover this month. How’d you make it happen?

Memminger: It was a horrible time to try to do it, it was during the 2009 recession, no one was going to pick an unknown writer. The traditional way of querying agents wasn’t working, so [instead] I found the biggest John D. MacDonald fan in the country, Calvin Branche. He has a MacDonald website and knows the estate. He took a look at my manuscript and loved it, introduced me to three other authors, all in the tropical thriller genre. One of them introduced me to Inkwell Management. I’d tell young writers, it’s really about perseverance. There’s a lot of people out there who will knock you down, be critical; you just have to put that aside, and keep going.

Aloha, Lady Blue
By Charley Memminger
Minotaur Books, New York

HM: How many of the underworld characters in your book are drawn from your crime reporting days in Honolulu?

Memminger: A lot of them are composites, like Tiny Maunakea. I knew Ronnie Ching, who was a 300-pound hitman, so Tiny Maunakea is based on him, more or less. Blue Hookane is based on a real investigator for prosecutor Charles Marsland’s office. I’ve embellished a lot, but a lot of the story is the way Hawaii used to be.

HM: Can you give us a sneak peek of what happens in the next Stryker McBride book?

Memminger: [Laughs] I can tell you it’s about sharks!