Retired Hornell PD office R. L. "Bob" Margeson publishes first novel, 'Tribulation’s Fate'
HORNELL — R. L. “Bob” Margeson has spent nearly 40 years in small town policing, working for departments in Hornell, Alfred and Canisteo.
For a good many of those years, Margeson spent much of his off time writing police fiction, a practice he took up seriously in the 1990s and has continued to the present day. He's sharing his efforts with his first published novel, "Tribulation's Fate."
Margeson grew up near Rochester and he is a 1975 Mendon High School graduate. He is the son of the late Bob Margeson Sr. and Patricia Burns Margeson, who lives in Campbell, N.Y.
Both of his parents were from Bath area and his grandparents operated the Chat-A-Whyle restaurant on Liberty Street in Bath for many years.
“Bath is what I would consider a second home,” said Margeson, who has lived in the City of Hornell since 1985.
Margeson is a 1981 graduate of the University of South Florida, earning a BA in sociology; he received an MA in justice studies from Southern New Hampshire University in 2017.
He knows about being a cop.
“I started out with the village of Alfred, worked eight years there. I had two stints. One was for about a year, then I came back to work (there), so about eight years total. In 1990, I transferred to the Hornell PD,” Margeson said. “Four years ago I retired, and I work a little, part-time, in Canisteo still.”
Margeson has served as an assistant football coach for 29 years, working on the staffs at Alfred University and Alfred State College.
In Hornell, where he served on the police department for 25 years, Margeson preferred policing the overnight shift.
“I worked midnight shifts,” he said. “It’s bar fights, domestics, you know, that’s what the midnight shift’s about. Everybody’s hunkered in.”
This helps explain why one of the “special thanks” for “Tribulation’s Fate” is to “the Mushroom Platoon.”
Published earlier this year by Spencer Printing of Honsdale, Pa., “Tribulation’s Fate” is set in the fictional small city of Emmitsburg, N.Y. The story takes place amid the economic hardships of the mid 1980s, following detective Jack Kelsey and other members of the Emmitsburg PD as they deal with a roiling cauldron of violence and homicide. Margeson writes crisply about policing, small town New York, college life including football, and how they intersect. A lead character is an ex-Vietnam Green Beret.
“I call it crime drama because it’s not a procedural, you know, so I’m not going to sit there for five pages describing this, that, and the other about, you know — so it’s not a procedural,” Margeson said. “I would describe it as crime drama because there’s a little bit of romance, and there’s murders.”
He said friends used to joke while he was writing, “Well, did you kill anybody off? And I’d go, ‘No.’ ‘Did your guy fall in love yet?’ ‘Almost.’
“Tribulation’s Fate’s” origins can be traced to a bitterly cold, snowy January night in the Maple City, circa 1996.
“I wrote that book 23 years ago. I had wanted to write since the late ’80s, and I was trying to put together in my mind some sort of story, and eventually I did write something down and got a little cursory thing going there,” the author explained.
Margeson, who was going through a divorce and looking to occupy his time and take his mind off messy personal matters during that period, was on patrol that frigid mid-winter night in a Hornell Police Department squad car.
“We had enough guys so you could take a comp day, and I took a half day, and started writing that night, and went on a tear,” he remembers.
And that tear has continued up to the present day, with Margeson completing “Tribulation’s Fate” along with some 40 additional stories, including novels and novellas over the last 20-plus years.
“But that’s the first one. That’s the baby,” he said of the published novel. “That’s my first child right there. I don’t know if it’s the best, but it’s my favorite.
“When you start anything, I don’t care what it is, particularly writing — to me, it’s a craft — and if you don’t just write, just write, and that’s what I did until I got a little burned out on it.
“I never wanted to have anything I wrote in print while I was a full-time police officer, so that would explain the delay. Although I did consider it, I figured it was one stage after another kind of thing.”
Margeson has donated copies of “Tribulation’s Fate” to the Hornell Area Humane Society and the Canisteo Police Club. Outlets to pick up the novel may increase in the future.
“I will try to find a local retailer to handle a few copies here or there,” he said. “I did not go the Amazon route or Barnes and Noble. I just wanted to start small, locally.”
Margeson said the early response to the novel has been very positive. He stresses that it is a work of fiction, and is not based on Hornell, or any specific place in particular.
“If you read it, I think you like it, and if you don’t, well, I’m more of a writer for the reader,” he said. “I’m not writing for critics. I’m not writing to become William Shakespeare. I’m a ham and eggs guy, just a blue collar kind of writer. I’m not out to impress anybody. It’s a good read. It’s a fun read, and there’s a lot of surprises in there. I think the characters are quite good.”