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

Robbie McManus is tortured. His psychopathic comrade ‘Padre Pio’ McCann is never far from wreaking havoc, his punk cousin ‘Rex Mundi’ has arrived from England and is getting in the way, his father is imploring him to finish his A-levels and get the hell out of Belfast – and then there’s Sabine, the mysterious loner in The Pound who shimmers, trancelike, on the dancefloor to the opening track of David Bowie’s Low. Her hair dyed jet black in a Cleopatra cut, she is a moving hieroglyphic that Robbie is desperate to decipher.

From the summer of 1978 to a frenzied Irish Cup Final day nine months later, and, through a series of smuggled ‘prison comms’, to the paramilitary-stalked Belfast streets of the late ‘80s, all threads collide in a tense, thrilling denouement. At turns shocking and heart-breaking, Two Souls is a deeply affecting novel that crackles and enthrals, tragically exposing human nature’s futile efforts to make the right decisions and to choose a life worth living.

Table of Contents

  1. ‘Boys Keep Swinging’ – 28 April 1979
  2. ‘Black Cab Blasphemies’ – 28 April 1979
  3. The Kingdom of Trout – 28 April 1979
  4. ‘The Speed of Life’ – 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. Comms 2 – 1987
  10. Platt Hits the Post … Bell Now Rising – 28 April 1979
  11. ‘Sound and Vision’ – July 1978
  12. Comms 3 – 1987
  13. Top of the Kop – 28 April 1979
  14. ‘Be My Wife’ – July 1978
  15. Comms 4 – 1987
  16. Saved by the Bell – 28 April 1979
  17. They Said It Couldn’t Be Done – 28 April 1979
  18. ‘Always Crashing in the Same Car’ – July 1978
  19. Comms 5 – 1987
  20. Comms 5: Part B – March 1987
  21. UTH – 28 April 1979
  22. The Silver Lady – 28 April 1979
  23. ‘A New Career in a New Town’ – August 1978
  24. ‘The Speed of Life’ II – August 1978
  25. ‘What in the World’ – August 1978
  26. The Dogs in the Street – 29 April 1979
  27. Comms 6 – March 1987
  28. Comms 7 – March 1987
  29. ‘Warszawa’ – August 1978
  30. Holy Lands – 29 April 1979
  31. Picture and Postcard – 29 April 1979
  32. Comms 8 – 1987
  33. Communique – Revolutionary Command Council – 16 March 1987
  34. Comms 9 – 17 March 1987
  35. ‘Sewer Rats’ – 19 March 1987
  36. ‘Subterraneans’ – 1 September 1994
  37. Marooned – 1 September 1994

Praise for Two Souls

‘There is a term sometimes used in Northern Ireland to describe literature that merely trades in the tropes of the Troubles: it’s called Troubles trash. Two Souls rummages around in the rubbish but emerges with something rather strange and precious.’
Ian Sansom, The Guardian

‘McDonald’s background in nonfiction gives this a gripping verisimilitude, and there’s an energy to his prose that makes Two Souls an exhilarating read, even as the events depicted spiral into inevitable violence.’
Alexander Larman, The Observer

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 won’t forget this novel in a hurry. I’m still reeling.’
Gerald Dawe

‘Go figure that Henry McDonald’s new book is the real thing. The real thing is what McDonald does. Vivid, authentic and scabrously funny. Good news for readers, bad news for other writers.’
Robert McLiam Wilson

‘Any novel whose narrator wears an ‘I Hate Pink Floyd’ T-shirt gets my vote any day.’
Julie Burchill

‘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 it’s heartbeat … this book should come with an X certificate’
Martin Dillon

 ‘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

 ‘Wow I couldn’t put this book down – a spellbinding often hilarious love/hate journey through Belfast’s underground punk scene during the 70s and 80s. With David Bowie’s “Low” setting the mood and the Cliftonville v Portadown Irish Cup Final at Windsor a theatre of war … Football, sex, drugs and rock n roll – it’s all in here in this captivating story of love across the sectarian divide with betrayal, hedonism and ultra-violence thrown in. This is essential reading!”
Peter Hooton, The Farm

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.

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