Although Joe Donovan's work as a reporter is significant to the plot of The Mercy Seat, Martyn Waites has little say about journalism. What Donovan provides is a character rugged, Northern and, at the time of the action, a loner.
In one of the weaker exchanges in a novel of uneven dialogue, Donovan is talking to Maria Bennett, an old friend and the editor of his former paper The Herald about the fact that she isn't married - "I am a successful independent woman... not wife and mother material."
Not unless you marry another journalist, says Donovan.
"I know what you inky cowboys are like," replies Maria. Improbably, Donovan suggests she has not lost her facility for an apt phrase.
Although I am struggling to hear any editor referring to a fellow journalist as an 'inky cowboy', it does have a resonance for Donovan. We know he is cool enough to wear a CBGB's t-shirt - and identifies with the Johnny Cash's version of Mercy Seat rather than Nick Cave's...
Peta describes him as...
Tall, long hair. Mid-thirties. Leather jacket and boots. Bit like that old cowboy actor from the 1970s. Sam Ellliott? Yeah. But without the moustache.
We learn ... his usual type of story... involved cover-ups, corruptions or social injustice. One he did on care homes led to a change in the law.
(Maria) named a prominent Conservative politician who had been jailed on perjury and corruption charges.
"Remember him? Joe was on that team, his first assignment."
An inky cowboy anyone?