Two Souls


Henry McDonald

August 2019

Explosive novel about fateful choices and possibilities of escape played out during the Troubles in Belfast’s 1970s punk rock and football hooligan scene.


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“Two souls, alas, are housed within my breast, and each will wrestle for the mastery there.” Faust / Goethe

Set against the soundtrack of David Bowie’s first Berlin album Low, Two Souls is an explosive novel that moves deftly between three time-frames: Belfast, August 1978 and the doomed love affair between a young punk and an older, bohemian art student; April 1979, specifically a frenzied Irish Cup Final day, the young punk now transformed into a violent football hooligan; and, through a series of smuggled ‘prison comms’, the dark, paramilitary-stalked Belfast streets of 1987, that young punk now an INLA leader embarking on the assassination of former comrades in a bitter feud, where all threads collide in a tense, thrilling denouement.

A seething cast of football hooligans, anarchic punks, paramilitary killers, disillusioned socialists and a young couple in a love affair that leaves a bitter, lethal legacy – all played out against a fizzing backdrop of sex, drugs, punk and avant-garde, punishment shootings, clerical child sex abuse, the advent of video porn and the end of communism.

At turns shocking and heart-breaking, with razor-sharp language and a turbo-charged plot, Two Souls is a singular ‘Troubles’ novel like no other, tragically exposing human nature’s futile efforts to make the right decisions and to choose a life worth living.

Think Martin Amis meets Irving Welsh against a febrile and gritty sectarian backdrop.

Table of Contents

  1. Boys Keep Swinging, 29 April 1979
  2. Black Cab Blasphemies, 29 April 1979
  3. The Kingdom of Trout, 29 April 1979
  4. The Speed of Light, July 1978
  5. Comms 1, 1987
  6. The Crowd, 28 April 1979
  7. God Save The Queen, 28 April 1979
  8. Breaking Glass, July 1978
  9. Platt hits the post, Bell Now Rising, 29 April 1979
  10. Sound and Vision, July 1978
  11. Comms 3, 1987
  12. 12, Top of The Kop, 29 April 1979
  13. Be My Wife, July 1978
  14. Comms 4, 1987
  15. Saved by the Bell, 29 April 1979
  16. They Said it Couldn’t Be Done, 29 April 1979
  17. Always Crashing in the Same Car, July 1978
  18. Comms 5, 1987
  19. UTH, 29 April 1979
  20. The Silver Lady, 29 April 1979
  21. A New Career in a New Town, August 1978
  22. The Speed of Light II, August 1978
  23. Comms 6, March 1987
  24. The Dogs in the Street, 30 April 1979
  25. What in the World, August 1978
  26. Comms 7, March 1987
  27. Holy Lands, 30 April 1979
  28. Warsawa, August 1978
  29. Picture and Postcard, 30 April 1979.
  30. Comms 8, 1987
  31. 16 March 1987: Communiqué, Revolutionary Command Council
  32. Comms 8, 17 March 1987
  33. Graveside oration by Aidan McManus, Chairperson of Brighton & Hove Against Imperialism and South Coast Co-Ordinator for the Republican Socialist Solidarity Group, 19 March 1987
  34. Subterraneans, 1 September 1994


“Buckle up! Henry McDonald’s novel takes the reader on a gritty and violent tour through the underbelly of a city where drugs and politics provide a combustible cocktail. It’s the author’s native city, and he knows its heartbeat … this book should come with an X certificate.”
Martin Dillon, author of The Shankill Butchers

“Luckily, when I lived in Belfast I didn’t know anyone as borderline psychotic as Padre Pio McCann, but like a lot of people, I heard rumours and stories. This one would not have been out of place. Starts fast and gets faster, like a good punk song!”                                                    Jake Burns, Stiff Little Fingers

“Any novel whose narrator wears an ‘I Hate Pink Floyd’ T-shirt gets my vote any day.”
Julie Burchill, journalist and author

Withnail and I meets One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest with a manic dose of Clockwork Orange thrown in for good measure.Two Souls gets to the roots of the Punk generation in Belfast’s darkest recent past, and sheds a light on what went on. You’ll not forget this novel in a hurry. I’m still reeling.’
Gerald Dawe, Poet and Fellow Emeritus (TCD)

About the Author

Henry McDonald is a staff writer for The Guardian and The Observer and has been a journalist covering conflicts around the world but specialising in the Northern Ireland Troubles for more than 30 years. He is the author of eight critically acclaimed non-fiction books including the histories of terror groups ranging from the INLA to the UVF. McDonald grew up in central Belfast and witnessed first-hand many of the key early events of the Troubles from Internment in 1971 to the carnage of Bloody Friday a year later. He was a punk rocker in the 1970s as well as a follower of Cliftonville Football Club, which he supports to this day.

Additional information



Publication Date


Paperback ISBN



272 pp