Clad in black, Daniel Richler sits in a room with purple-painted streaks on the edges of the walls. He is studying the latest script for Imprint, TVO’s hot literary talk show.

Times are different for this former rock deejay. Gone are those vinyl days when Richler spun the tunes, talking all the while about teenagers looking for a cause. He’s traded in the black leather for a suit jacket and he’s flipped the record over to the arts.

With his lifelong dream, Richler’s first novel, Kicking Tomorrow, now complete, and a new marriage, his first, two months ago, Richler’s smile has a warm savvy.

“I was inescapably indoctrinated with the idea [of writing a novel],” Richler says, hunched over a bar table at a local TVO hangout.

“I can recall when I was around 11, I actually went through a tortured period when my brother [Noah] and I were esteemed by my father to be getting an inadequate education.”

Richler’s famous dad is Canadian author Mordecai Richler, who Daniel says made the sons work on writing projects during the weekend.

“We were given 60 words,” says Richler, whose pace slows down to recall a couple, “words like ‘alacrity,’ and ‘Bohemian.’”

Those tortuous writing sessions, which Richler remembers all too well, helped the neophyte author foster his love of words.

In 1976, after Richler attempted studies at McGill University (classical flute and art history), he dropped out after two months and moved from his family’s nest on Mordecai’s decree. Papa Richler, says Daniel about his stepdad (his “real dad,” is Stanley Mann, a screenwriter who lives in Hollywood), didn’t want to see five little Mordecais running around.

“He never was the sort of father who said you’ve got to get a good job in business. He just said, ‘Do whatever you want, so long as you can support yourself.’”

Moving into a seven-room apartment off Park Avenue in the hub of Montreal’s Greek setion, Richler started life with a new job, deejaying rock tunes at CHOM.

The British-born Richler says working for radio allowed him to tune into sound, making him more conscious about the spoken word.

Former CHOM rock announcer Beverly Hills, who worked with Richler, says “Everything Daniel did was in the shape of a story.”

Richler’s love for literature started, he says, when he picked up The Catcher In The Rye, and was overcome with giggles when Holden Caulifield farted in church. Now, he has a habit of taking words he reads and using them in conversation.

Leslie Allen, then assistant to CFNY’s Program Director, Dave Marsden, recalls: “When he was telling a story and forgot something, Daniel loved saying, ‘A-terrible-horrible-ugly-baby.’”

This teaser, Richler says, while he cracks a smile, was from an Edward Gorey poem, “Beastly Baby,” about a baby “so horrible he was left alone at a picnic.”

The Daniel style — a studded black leather jacket worn on all occasions padded with his quirky-coated lines — later became the perfect hit at CityTV.

John Martin, the person who hired Richler for CityTV in 1984, says, “He [Daniel] is rock ’n’ roll. He’s of it. He’s controversial and he deals with issues.”

That’s what Kicking Tomorrow does. His book focuses on the issue of growing up in Montreal during the seventies, and looks at sex, drugs and good old rock ’n’ roll in a non-judgmental way.

He says his goal is to get closed-minded adults to realize how exciting and true adolescence is.

Peering into his cold glass of Blue, Richler adds, “Really, what I wanted to do was to write a book that would convey the physical experience of being an adolescent. I wanted the reading of it to be as rich and psychedelic, as pained as … adolescence itself.”

Turning the pages in this softback published by McClelland and Steward and scheduled for release April 15, you read about Robbie Bookbinder, a passionate heavy metal headbanger who, as Richler says, “doesn’t know what to be passionate about and he’s looking for … something to hook his passions onto.”

What happens is Robbie falls in love with a self-destructive femme-fatale, Ivy Mills, who rewards his passions with an “absolute stiff arm.” He doesn’t want to deal with emotion at all.

“Do you sometimes feel like you’re the
only person in the world?” Ivy asked
him. Well, him in a way. “How do you
know you exist at all? What does it
feel like to think? At AA they tell
you to look to a Force, to help you
contact reality again. Reality? I’m
addicted to it, but I’m trying to kick
tomorrow all the time.”

As Richler says, “He finds it safer to have all the nerve endings turned up … not to feel at all.”

Meanwhile Richler’s other character in this love-triangle arrangement is Rosie, sweet and open.

“But, he [Robbie] can’t afford any feeling and I think a lot of people carry that through their lives,” he said.

In writing Kicking Tomorrow, Richler wanted to do three things: teach himself to write; exorcize certain spirits within himself; and write about the experiences of young people growing up.

Sipping on his Blue with his long fingers touching the glass, Richler adds, “After I left The Journal [where he hosted the Friday night arts show] it really took me a year to finish writing the book.”

For the new novelist who says he’s somewhere between 30 and death, but whom Canada’s Who’s Who lists as 34, writing the book was a form of exorcism.

“I made … a connection in my mind that writing would clean things up for me. I really do think in the end that after writing a book, I had sorted out some ideals and values.”

Richler recently tied the knot with his sweetheart of four years, Jill Offman, who’s an arts producer for his competition’s network — the CBC’s The Journal.

In addition to his duties as host of Imprint, Richler is also Head of Arts Programming at TVO; he admits he may have “bit off more than he can chew” when he took the position. Seven programs at TVO, producer of a sci-fi show, Prisoners of Gravity, and host for Imprint is a lot for anyone.

But Richler, wearing a warm smile with his blue eyes hinting at a lack of sleep, doesn’t seem to mind.

I wanted experience in management, and I felt that it would be a maturing thing for me to do — to find out how it [arts management] works.”

Sitting in front of his computer screen in the Tranamerica Building on a balmy early March afternoon, Richler continues correcting a script for Imprint.

Now that he finished Kicking Tomorrow, Richler says he is ready to write again. As he says of writing his first novel, “I could not escape the idea. To write a book would be the most demanding thing I could do and like Mount Everest, there it is. It has to be climbed.”