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Raoul Duke is the fictional character and antihero based on Hunter S. Thompson in his autobiographical novel Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. The book was originally written under the name Raoul Duke.
In Thompson's writings
Duke is the main character and narrator of many of Thompson's stories, novels, and articles, often taking part in the events of Thompson's life in Thompson's place. He is portrayed as a cynical, mentally unbalanced, Gonzo journalist whose daily life is a near-perpetual state of intoxication on whatever drugs happen to be available - ranging from cannabis to amyl nitrite to adrenochrome - in an attempt to keep the spirit of the 1960s, a time which he speaks of romantically in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, alive within himself even as the rest of the country forgets it and what it represented. He usually obtains and consumes these substances in the company of his attorney, Dr. Gonzo, a "half-crazed 300 pound Samoan", whose drug-induced frenzies give even Duke pause. Thompson based Gonzo on his friend Oscar Zeta Acosta.
Duke is first mentioned by Thompson in his 1966 book Hell's Angels, where he is described as an outlaw who does not break the law in an offensive way to society, but a way that in fact makes him more acceptable.
Duke is often characterized as being somewhat of an author surrogate. His name, according to Thompson in interviews, was inspired by Raúl Castro and John Wayne's nickname "The Duke", and probably originated as a pseudonym used to check into hotels, as in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
Duke was also used so that Thompson could talk about himself – after a diving accident Thompson had to spend some time in a decompression chamber, and wrote a letter signed 'Raoul Duke' in which the pseudonym described the insanity of Thompson's condition in the chamber – holding up scrawled notes to the single glass window and ordering a television set to watch coverage of the Watergate hearings. The letter appeared in Rolling Stone in August 1973.
In The Great Shark Hunt (a large selection of articles written by Thompson) Raoul Duke's name is the one that appears on several essays that were published in newspapers and magazines, including the "Police Chief", an article published by Scanlan's Monthly (June 1970) in which Duke is apparently an ex-police chief raging at the inadequate amount of real "weaponry" used by the police and advertised in the (presumably invented) Police Chief magazine. It was signed "Raoul Duke (Master of Weaponry)".
In Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72, Thompson describes Raoul Duke as a sports writer friend, one of the few journalists who can truly write objectively instead of merely talking about the concept of objectivity. In the same section, Thompson calls journalistic objectivity "a pompous contradiction in terms", and warns the reader not to look for it under his byline.
Thompson is quoted in the documentary film Fear and Loathing in Gonzovision, "I'm never sure which one people want me to be [Thompson or Duke], and sometimes they conflict... I am living a normal life, but beside me is this myth, growing larger and getting more and more warped. When I get invited to Universities to speak, I'm not sure who they're inviting, Duke or Thompson... I suppose that my plans are to figure out some new identity, kill off one life and start another."
Portrayals in other media
The Duke character has been portrayed in three films:
- The 1980 film Where the Buffalo Roam, in which he is portrayed by Bill Murray
- The 1998 film adaptation of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, in which he was portrayed by Johnny Depp.
- The 2011 film Rango, Raoul makes a cameo, voiced by Johnny Depp
Garry Trudeau's Doonesbury character Uncle Duke is based on Thompson's Raoul Duke. Although the Doonesbury character is usually referred to only as "Duke", various other names for him have appeared over the years, including having the first name "Raoul"
- Nash, Paul. "Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas". Close-UpFilm.com. Archived from the original on October 14, 2013. Retrieved October 16, 2008.
Depp expertly delivers the quintessential counter-culture anti-hero Raoul Duke, expertly taking on the tics and gestures of Thompson (he spent four months with the Good Doctor at his fortified compound shooting guns and making bombs...
- "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: Study Guide". Course Hero. Retrieved October 9, 2018.
- Doss, Yvette C. (June 5, 1998). "The Lost Legend of the Real Dr. Gonzo". Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles, California: Tronc. Retrieved December 26, 2019.
- Forsberg, Jennifer Hagen (1 October 2015). "Working Through Hunter S. Thompson's Strange and Terrible Saga". Persona Studies. Victoria, Australia: Deakin University. Retrieved 26 December 2019.
- Russell, Jennifer M. (Spring 2011). ""A Savage Place!" Hunter S. Thompson and His Pleasure-Dome". Literary Journalism Studies. Evanston, Illinois: Northwestern University. 3 (1): 43.
In Las Vegas, Raoul Duke, Thompson’s alter-ego and the main character of the book...
- Perry, Kevin E.G. (12 July 2019). "My gonzo night at Hunter S Thompson's cabin". The Guardian. London, England: Guardian Media Group. Retrieved 26 December 2019.
- Thompson, Hunter S. (August 2, 1973). "Memo from the Sports Desk & Rude Notes from a Decompression Chamber in Miami". Rolling Stone. New York City: Wenner Media LLC.
- Thompson, Hunter S. (1973). Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72. San Francisco, California: Straight Arrow Books. p. 33. ISBN 978-0-87932-053-9.
- Thompson, Hunter S. (December 2, 1978). "Fear and Loathing in Gonzovision". Omnibus. BBC.
- "Hunter S. Thompson dead at 67". CNN. Atlanta, Georgia: Turner Broadcasting Systems. February 21, 2005. Archived from the original on March 16, 2008. Retrieved October 4, 2019.
- Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas Part 1 of the original version as first published in Rolling Stone, Nov. 11, 1971.