Troubador The Collation Unit

Released: 28/03/2021

ISBN: 9781800462083

eISBN: 9781800469563

Format: Paperback/eBook

Review this Book

The Collation Unit

by

In the 1970s computers were beginning to overwhelm the Secret Services. Quickly, too much information was coming into GCHQ and things were being missed. The Collation Unit was set up underground in six floors beneath some old aircraft hangars at Mannington airfield just outside Cheltenham to make connections and prioritise everything.

In April/May 1982 they spotted some very strange things happening in Georgia and Saudi Arabia. Unfortunately, London decided to move the only satellite covering this area down to the South Atlantic where some Argentinians had begun to invade the Falklands. When tensions began to develop with London, Mannington had to resort to old-fashioned means of finding out what was going on in the Middle East. They found Mark Tanner, an irrigation engineer from High Wycombe, who was working on new Military Cities in Saudi Arabia. He was there to make enough money to pay off his mortgage after a small difficulty involving a fire. It is true to say that however technology moves on, it still all comes down to people on the ground …

A tense and exciting story with an unguessable ending, this is a must-read for spy thriller enthusiasts and anyone who has always wondered what goes on behind closed doors.

Spalding Today

Hampshire Independent

Reinterred

Frome Times

Warminster Journal

The Collation Unit by David Jarvis is an espionage novel published by Troubador Press. If you like thrillers with guns and sex, this is not a book for you. Instead, this is a spy book where the main enemies are from inter-department rivals among the British intelligence departments. This is the type of spy book I prefer. From the Troubador website I take it that it is a self-publishing company and this may be a 1st novel for Mr. Jarvis. I would say “well done you.” The story is not perfect but it was more than good enough to hold my interest throughout.
The Collation Unit is a spin out of GCHQ that collects and assesses the output from GCHQ. Their goal is to then move on and act on these results. Obviously other departments do not think this is their writ.
The majority of the novel takes places in Saudi Arabia where an Englishmen who previously designed and installed irrigation system on golf courses in Britain goes to Saudi Arabia to make money and develop irrigation system for pointless buildings and new cities in the desert. He is the guy the Collation Unit wants to use to find out what is going on about a shipment of …….? going to Saudi Arabia. Nukes, weapons, drugs? His name is Mark Tanner and he goes by his initials “EMPTY”. At the same time as this is occurring, Mr. Jarvis employs a “MacGuffin “as the Falkland War commences. This causes the intelligence community to divert satellite coverage away from the Middle East to the Argentina region. Leaving Empty to be The Collation Unit’s eyes.
Empty appears to be a born loser but perhaps this is not the case and I shall not spoil the ending.
The point is, if you are looking for a good read, plenty of surprises and are willing to accept Empty is far better in planning and executing his escape from Saudi Arabia than the Saudis or the British Intelligence realizes this novel is for you.

by Mike Hassel Shearer


It is 1999 and Sir Cecil is an old man now, living his life as a recluse in an English village. The secrets he holds in his head could change the political landscape of Europe and the Middle East. The secret government department he used to work for sends someone to check on him every year. A new man comes to see him and Cecil reminisces about the past: a carefully edited past.
It is 1982 and Mrs Thatcher has sent a large task force to claim back the Falkland Islands from Argentina. The Middle East, as always, is a powder keg about to erupt.
Against this backdrop David Jarvis slowly builds the tension in a spy thriller that is innovative and thought-provoking. There's a splendid sense of irony running through the plot. It is stylish, satirical and gripping.

by NetGalley review


This exciting tale, set in the early 1980s, of rivalry between MI6 and a collation unit based at RAF Mannington is a good read. Set partly in Saudi Arabia and Georgia, it is well written, realistic and has convincingly drawn characters. It has excellent use of language and is very amusing in places. The story highlights that even in the world of increasing technology, the individual is what often matters most. This is David Jarvis' first book and based on this one, I look forward to the next.

by Amazon review


This is so much more than a spy story about technology set against the backdrop of the Falklands War in 1982. The language and phrasing is delightful and reels you in. Humour pervades the book with some laugh out loud moments. A joy to read from its start to excellent finish.

by Amazon review


A thrilling read from start to end. Great storyline following truly relatable characters. I loved how you felt you were seeing the real inner workings of the intelligence sector. Any spy enthusiasts must read!

by Amazon review


This is a fun book with some memorable characters involved in analysing data of national importance at the time of the Falklands war. It reminded me a little of John le Carré but with a much lighter touch.

by Amazon review


Modern Evelyn Waugh. Good understanding of Middle East and great plot. A ripping yarn and very amusing deserves to be widely read.

by Amazon review


It is 1999 and Sir Cecil is an old man now, living his life as a recluse in an English village. The secrets he holds in his head could change the political landscape of Europe and the Middle East. The secret government department he used to work for checks on him every year. A new man comes to talk to him and Cecil reminisces about the past: a carefully edited past.
It is 1982 and Mrs Thatcher has sent a large task force to claim back the Falkland Islands from Argentina. The Middle East, as always, is a powder keg about to erupt!
Against this backdrop David Jarvis slowly builds the tension in a spy novel that is innovative and thought-provoking. There's a splendid sense of irony running through the plot. It is stylish, satirical and gripping.

by NetGalley review


A light, bright and witty take on the spy genre, a book that very much tells the story of the inner workings and going’s on in the espionage and intelligence world,

Highly researched, well written , it felt like a slow burning, super intelligent read.

by Amazon review


This book is a gentle burner that grows on you more and more. The main character Empty is endearing and you really feel for his predicament. This is so much more than a spy story.

by Waterstones website review


This first book by David Jarvis is terrific.
Behind the closed doors of the UK secret services is the Collation Unit with it's spies who gather information ranging from the good to bad progress of the Falklands war across the globe to the secret workings ( and not workings ) within Saudi Arabia.
The story is cleverly set out and and is sprinkled with subtle humor making it all the more readable.
Saudi Arabia itself for example is described as having "nice beaches but the sea is a long way out" while the main character Mark Tanner is nicknamed "Empty" which you soon realize is the novel use of his initials "MT" or MmmTee.
I liked this book very much and would recommend it to any one who enjoys a good and clever spy thriller.
My hope is that David Jarvis will write a follow on book very soon.

by Waterstones website review


What a fun read! Good writing here and that's always my top criteria for an engaging read. Not your page-turner spy thriller, but a slow burn of inter agency bickering and jealousy. All set against the Falklands War and a suspected arms deal going down in the Middle East.

Jarvis has a great and very dry sense of humor. I particularly enjoyed his description of a Saudi bank manager’s elaborate signature on an official document. Hilarious, especially if you’ve ever seen these epic calligraphic signatures in action. Also enjoyed the character named Empty, who, by all appearances, lacks any substance. I won’t spoil the discovery of why, exactly, he is called Empty, but funny, clever, and pertinent.

The ending fell short for me but all and all I loved this one. Not a book for fans of high action spy novels but perhaps for those who enjoyed the Slough House series by Mick Herron.

by NetGalley review


David Jarvis' first novel - a spy thriller - is a thoroughly enjoyable read.
It is a real 'page turner', cleverly combining fact and fiction (being set at the time of the Falklands war). and has some elements of humour thrown in.
Two things I especially enjoyed.
First, set - as it was - forty years' ago It's a reminder of how much technology has advanced. A thread of the book is the fact that in order to gain important observational intelligence the book's characters had to wait for the frequency and direction of orbit of the very few satellites in existence. So, whilst we wait for coverage of the Eastern Mediterranean, essential for the pursuit of evidence regarding activities to Saudi Arabia our Armed forces need continual coverage in the South Atlantic (for understandable reasons). This subject is very well covered & we are caught up in the tensions of the decision making.
Today? We'd have it all - and more.
Second, one of the heroes 'Empty' Tanner is a hugely likeable character. He's almost one of us - ordinary chap, down on his luck (hence why he's working in Saudi Arabia), away from his family and familiar surroundings, and usually out of his depth - you actually start feeling sorry for him. But at the end of the book he demonstrates real ingenuity and resourcefulness to address his situation.
Hooray for 'MT'!

by Waterstones website review


I was recommended this book so did not know what to expect. Yes it is a thrilling and interesting spy story but I never thought that it would be so funny. The main character is an ‘innocent abroad’ and appears to be completely out of his depth. By the end you care desperately for him and his family.

by Amazon review


The Collation Unit is … a cracking little story, full of warmth and humour.

Set in Thatcher’s Britain during the Falklands War of the early 1980s, this spy story follows the workings and rivalry of two Government units – the established Secret Service and the ambitious Collation Unit.

As the action switches between Cheltenham, London, Europe and the Middle East, two plots unfold and the most unlikely of heroes is drawn into one of them.
The bumbling, harmlessly irritating Mark Tanner – known as Empty after his initials – is one of the most joyous anti-heroes ever consigned to the written word.

by Jeremy Ransome, Editor: Spalding Today, Spalding Guardian and Lincolnshire Free Press


Set mainly around the time of the Falklands war, the Collation Unit is the debut novel by David Jarvis which has a unique blend of humour, history and story telling around the role technology plays in the secret service. We learn about how the traditional methods of spying and gaining vital information in London are being overshadowed and look to be potentially made redundant by the vast new satellite unit built on an old RAF base in Mannington. However there are flaws in the systems which are explored and a power struggle between the two departments.
The story is told from several points of view including Jack Pennington, a spy who works for the secret service at a new base in Mannington. He has to lead a secretive lifestyle which is brought under threat when his affair with Victoria, an administrative worker at the facility is exposed. We follow Jack and others to locations such as Geneva, Riyadh and London. Saudi Arabia particularly is described in vivid detail and I felt it gave me a real insight into what working there as a British person might be like.
Mark ” Empty” Tanner is another of the main characters who we follow throughout the story. Empty is an irrigation worker in the UK who is down on his luck after an insurance loophole means after a fire at his house he has to pay both his mortgage on the property as well as rent accommodation for his family. As a result he finds lucrative employment in Saudi Arabia to help his family get back on their feet. Whilst over there he becomes embroiled in a situation being monitored by the government back home which is potentially life threatening after being contacted by Jack Pennington to help gather intel on.
Jarvis has clearly gone to extensive lengths to research the book and I found it very informative and intriguing. Several times during the book i had a smile on my face and laughed out loud at some of the humorous dialogue a great example being ” the best thing about corned beef is the euphoria of getting the bastard stuff out of the tin without cutting your finger”. This kind of humour worked extremely well for me alongside the serious subject matter of the book and gave it a light hearted feel in places.
In summary I thought it was a fantastic read, I genuinely cared for the characters, particularly Empty who was extremely likeable, and also felt I learnt a lot from the book. Perhaps a slow burner at first but once it going I found myself eager to turn the pages and find out what lay instore for each of the people involved. The ending was very satisfactory and rounded the book of nicely and ill give no spoilers but will say I was delighted with how things turned out!
Thanks a lot to David Jarvis for sending me a copy of the book, i really appreciated it and thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I would likely recommend this book to anyone who likes humorous, historical thrillers.

Original review: https://yorkshirebooklover.wordpress.com/2021/06/17/review-the-collation-unit-by-david-jarvis/

by Yorkshire Book Lover


An easy-flowing insight into the world of espionage. The Collation Unit opens your eyes to some of the events of the Eighties and makes you wonder - could it be true?

by Keith Drayton


What an awesome book! You really start collating the first few chapters about a quarter of the way through, but then it really picks up from there and it becomes almost impossible to put it down. So smart! Amazingly detailed throughout which makes you ponder about the author himself. Thoroughly enjoyable! Definitely should be turned into a movie!

by Angelina Croft


If you enjoy traditional spy novels with a sprinkle of humour you will love this read.
As usual with this genre, it took me a while to work out who was in competition with who and not always being entirely truthful. But once I worked it out I found it a fun read. I was helped by the story being about events I remember, the Falklands War, the emergence of Gorbechev and the Saudi Arabia accumulation of military equipment while enjoying massive profits from oil production. These three events are interlinked but the main focus is on a character called Empty who I loved and the rivalry between British departments.
Very well written and easy to read.

Original review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/4123243005?book_show_action=true&from_review_page=1

by Goodreads review


This is the first novel I have read by David Jarvis, so I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. First off it was refreshing to see some wit and humour to what otherwise was a serious subject. His use of words and the pace of the novel immediately draws you into the story. He has made good use of his knowledge of the Falklands War, and UK and Middle Eastern politics. The blend between fact and fiction is clever, keeping the story alive and credible. Initially I struggled with the roles of the various characters but as the story progressed, and with better concentration, these became clearer. The inclusion of the characters’ private lives added a further dimension which was a good contrast to the crux of the novel.

Original review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/3948405107?book_show_action=true&from_review_page=1

by Goodreads review


Very enjoyable book. A very plausible situation that is very well presented and particularly well researched. A good story for all interested in political intrigue and operational difficulties when opposing departments are involved in a wartime or threatening situation. Services and civil servant departments presented in a possible accurate and feasible situation where the Cheltenham and cotswolds area is accurately and clearly depicted. Very well written, I look forward to reading the next book.

by BARRY TATE


Whilst it took me some time to click with the characters at the beginning, The Collation Unit was hard to put down once the tense plots progressed. Smart combination of suspense and humour, with a rich historical and cultural backdrop. Didn't see that twist!

by Alynn Saripuddin


This book draws on the writer’s experience of the Civil Service and Foreign Office and is as complex and fast moving as any reader might wish for in a thriller and no doubt indirectly based on the author's experience in his life. It is true the early 1980’s and reflects the changes in society and culture at the time. A satisfying read; it is to be hoped that other books follow.

by Dr. Geoffrey Walton


This book includes no author biography – which rather begs the question was David Jarvis really a spy in real life? His descriptions of the day to day humdrum of intelligence gathering and assessment, in soulless and non-descript environs are a million miles away from the typical spy novel. Don’t expect James Bond style car-chases and shoot-outs. But equally don’t expect the rather bland dullness of George Smiley. Sure, there is some intrigue and tension, and even some moments of action, but that is seemingly quite incidental and not the mainstay of the plot.
This book is quite recognisably a story about the quiet ordinariness and occasional absurdity of everyone’s lives – albeit in some locations and situations that many of us would never hope to find ourselves. With a dry wit and subtle humour, the novel carries along at a fair pace chopping and changing from intimate engagements in the characters’ lives through events unfolding on a broad historic canvas portrayed with well researched accuracy and insight to the unfamiliar and unfathomable realities of living and working in a harsh climate and regime.
Weaving these strands together, David has created a clever but relatable story filled with likeable characters (both good and bad) delivering a satisfying tale that perhaps has a subtext that really makes us ask what is it all for anyway?

by Amazon review


Complex and fast moving

This book draws on the writer’s experience of the Civil Service and Foreign Office and is as complex and fast moving as any reader might wish for in a thriller and no doubt indirectly based on the author experience in his life. It is true the early 1980’s and reflects the changes in society and culture at the time. A satisfying read; it is to be hoped that other books follow.

by Amazon review


… really liked it
This is a wonderfully witty, jam packed read. Some laugh at loud moments at clever one liners. A really unusual novel in a subject matter and workplace that rarely gets spoken about, particularly in this way. A wonderfully unique take and one I enjoyed. Expect the unexpected with this. Sharp, sophisticated but doesn't take itself too seriously. A male dominated world, but this suits the sense of time and place within and some really great characters too. I highly recommend if you fancy something a little bit quirky but very intelligent.

by Goodreads review


A thoroughly engrossing read. I enjoyed the underlying humour and attention to detail. I liked the cameo roles of the women in the book, who were one step ahead of their menfolk. The sense of place was well drawn. It was interesting to remember life before google. And yes, the ending of the book did take me by surprise!

by Maggie Dyson


A great read! A thrilling spy story cleverly interwoven with factual references from the Falklands War leaving you wondering whether the 'Collation Unit' really was a secret government facet rivalling MI6 and GCHQ...

by Julia Webberley


Not my usual read but recommended to me & thoroughly enjoyed. A cleverly crafted story, the author weaves & inter weaves the strands to draw you along & keep you guessing right til the end. Not to be rushed, savour the storytelling & keep it to read again! It left me feeling the author knows more than he's telling & I very much look forward to his next book.

by R. Wilding


The Collation Unit is a traditional spy thriller in the vein of John le Carré, but with more humour, and dare I say it, more enjoyable! Set in and around Cheltenham, together with Saudi Arabia and the Middle East, with the backdrop of the timeline of the Falklands War between April and June 1982, this was such an authentic, well-researched novel.

For a variety of reasons, the timeline of the Falklands War is imprinted in my memory, as an impressionable 14 year old, so it is something that I can vividly picture where I was and what I was doing at the time, which actually added to my enjoyment in reading this novel. Having spent time in Cheltenham in the 1980s/1990s I really felt that David Jarvis had captured a real moment in time, and the general atmosphere in Cheltenham, particularly in respect of how GCHQ was woven into the fabric of the town.
The main characters we follow in this gripping spy thriller are Jack Pennington, who works at The Collation Unit, and whilst having a complicated personal life, is trying to get to the bottom of what is happening in the Middle East. When the satellite is reassigned to look at what is happening in the South Atlantic, Jack is forced to resort to ‘old school’ spycraft, which is where he comes into contact with a British irrigation engineer Empty, who is working in Saudi Arabia in order to raise funds to buy a home for his family after his uninsured house is destroyed in a fire. I really enjoyed reading about Empty, he was such a great character, and even though at times he appears to be a bit of a bumbling, if well-meaning, idiot, he redeems himself and proves that he is made of sterner stuff when things become dangerous for him.

I loved how multi-dimensional all of the characters were, and I found the writing style of David Jarvis to be both humorous and immensely engaging, which is ideal for a spy thriller. I think this is one of the better spy thrillers I have ever read, and I really cannot wait to see what David Jarvis writes next.

Many thanks to David Jarvis for my copy of his dynamic spy thriller The Collation Unit, in exchange for an honest review.

by Jo Shaw


A very enjoyable read! The Collation Unit is well plotted with a nicely planned introduction to each of the many characters. David’s style of writing is very descriptive and full of many humorous one-liners. A very well researched story that draws the reader in, a twist that I did not see coming, along with a well thought out ending. A reminder of how the world was before technology changed it forever. I hope that David Jarvis has a second book in the pipeline?

by Caroline Chard


An interesting insight into the world espionage and communication. I appreciated the links to current events, which being from my lifetime, provided sound foundation. I enjoyed the intricate challenges and conversely mundane life of a spy, bureaucracy and global logistics.

I found some of the content difficult to stay engaged with, so returned when less tired and able to focus. I enjoyed the wit and irony of some of the interactions and certainly found it worth reading.

Original review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/4223797084?book_show_action=false

by Goodreads review


I’m not sure how I feel about this book, if I’m satisfied or not. It’s oddly engaging and kept me reading though hardly edge-of-your-seat stuff. I think I would have liked clearer finalisation of a couple of topics, such as the boat and library. I’m not really sure what the point was. That said, Empty and Jack were interesting characters and I enjoyed the professional tensions between the departments. Maybe just a bit more closure.

Original review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/4214761466?book_show_action=false

by Goodreads review


If you like intricate spy novels, this would be the book for you.

Original review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/4217085674?book_show_action=false

by Goodreads review


This was a slow burn but a really good read. It wasn't your normal spy novel but great characters and I really did enjoy it.

I would definitely recommend it. There were some really funny elements and it was just a great book to read.

Original review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/4237509531?book_show_action=false

by Goodreads review


Intriguing plot, worth reading twice, with unsual, but attractive, underlying subtle humour. Looking forward to Mr Jarvis' second novel already...

by Chris Hill


Thoroughly enjoyed this book. I loved the Spooks TV series and thought this story was similar to many of those episodes. I had a cousin in England who went to work as an Engineer in Saudi and his father got sent a message to say he had died, no explanation about his death and no the body could not be returned. So I could see how Empty could be in real trouble, but the ending for him I didn’t suspect that. I also really liked how all the characters played their own sections against one another; yet all results were achieved despite themselves.

Original review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/4239023728?book_show_action=false

by Goodreads review


As an avid reader of psychological thrillers, this isn't my usual sort of book but I thoroughly enjoyed it. Plenty of twists to keep you guessing. Thank you to Voracious Readers Only for the opportunity to read it. Would recommend.

Original review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/4256335422?book_show_action=false

by Goodreads review


The Collation Unit is an incredibly intricate and well-researched spy novel. This detailed story offers insight into the inner workings of the government during the Falklands war, as well as a rivalry between two departments.

The story begins in 1999 with Sir Cecil Mackay, who is currently retired and living in a quiet English village. After working for the Secret Service, he has some pretty valuable intel that fundamentally changed world politics and as a result the government checks up on him every year to ensure he has not revealed their secrets to anyone. When a new visitor arrives, Cecil reminisces about the past and the events that occurred in 1982.

What I really enjoyed about The Collation Unit is that it’s driven by both the plot and the characters. I liked how there are so many different aspects to this story. As technology, and computers especially, are becoming increasingly popular in society, it’s becoming harder to keep track of the wealth of information that’s being circulated. I loved being able to see just how far along technology has come since 1982 and also how even now the people behind the technology are still fundamental to any business. As for the characters, there’s a large cast of characters and I wouldn’t be a fan of this normally because I find it’s hard to keep track of everyone as they eventually all start to blend together, but Jarvis does a fantastic job at making all the characters stand out. They are all so different from each other and while some are quite serious, others are very witty and provide some humorous moments throughout.

The majority of the story focuses on the power struggle between RAF Mannington and the Secret Intelligence Service. While Mannington was originally formed to take care of the menial parts of the job, which involved transmitting information and sending anything that was relevant up to London, it soon took on an increasing amount of work and is now a threat to the Secret Intelligence Service. I enjoyed parts of the story where it was in the Mannington base as it was fascinating to see them collecting and then analysing the data. The scenes with Jack Pennington were interesting as he works at the base and manages a team of Middle East experts. He falls foul to Sir Cecil’s team as they manage to dig up dirt on him, which is a blow to the overall department as it wrestles for dominance. I thought it was funny how they were each trying to gain the upper hand rather than finding a way to work together.

Another character we spend quite a bit of time with is Mark “Empty” Tanner. I thought the reason behind his nickname was quite clever and he’s a very interesting character to say the least. He’s down on his luck and gets drawn into quite a few unfortunate situations as a result. Empty’s scenes in particular focused on the seriousness of the situation and had a bit of humour thrown in throughout.

This is a fantastic spy thriller as it’s both entertaining and informative. I loved how each of the characters all played a fundamental role in the story, which meant that there was never a dull moment. If you’re a fan of spy thrillers, I’d definitely recommend The Collation Unit!

Original review: https://www.waterstones.com/reviews/user/id/4428266/beth

by Waterstones review


I received this ebook through the Veracious Readers Only website in exchange for a review. This is a political, mystery adventure which I thoroughly enjoyed. I was totally invested in these characters.

by Julie Dawes


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