Raoul Duke, as an actual person, never existed. He was merely an alias that I initially used to protect my identity. Who knows where I came up with him… I certainly don’t. I probably used the name first as a fake for checking into some random hotel. I never check into a hotel using my real name… far too dangerous for a man of my lifestyle.
Anyway, I first used Duke in my writing back during my brief service in the Military. I was the sports editor for The Command Courier, the official newspaper of Eglin Air-force Base. Originally I just used Duke as a source for quotes that no one else would say. I wouldn’t just make things up, I only used Raoul Duke, among other fictitious characters, to say something the way I wanted to say it. Duke was unimportant, just a name. I had plenty more that I used. It wasn’t until Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas that people actually began to wonder, just who the fuck is this person?
I don’t know why I chose to use Raoul Duke for Fear and Loathing. I guess I just like the name… it has a nice flow to it. Duke personified my role in the story. He’s basically a highly exaggerated form of myself, a sort of caricature, I guess. Duke took everything I was doing to the next level, from drugs to violence to complete insanity… He helped elevate all of it. Even the writing style that I use for Duke is clearly different than when I am speaking as myself. I like to think of myself as a much more levelheaded person than Duke, who is clearly a drug-fueled maniac. Not that we don’t share some characteristics, because we do. It’s just that, one has to understand that we are not simply the same person… that was the problem with Duke.
People could not seem to differentiate between Raoul Duke and Hunter Thompson. No one could figure out where one stopped and the other began… we were intertwined. Duke has continued to follow me throughout my life, ever since Fear and Loathing. Whenever I am invited to speak at a university, or anywhere else for that matter, I am not sure who they are expecting. Do they want me to be Duke or Thompson? Over time, In the eyes of the world, I have become Raoul Duke. I have written my own myth. I am trapped by his legacy. It’s becoming increasingly harder to escape him. I can even notice it in my writing. I feel as if I am beginning to fall into some kind of pattern. I’m not completely sure yet what I’m going to do next.
“I am living a normal life, but beside me is this myth, growing larger and getting more and more warped… I suppose that my plans are to figure out some new identity, kill off one life and start another.”