Those who remember this British writer's airy tales in country gardens in the '30's and beyond will undoubtedly be shocked or at least bemused by this sunset confession of a man Who hated his father so much that three times as a child and youth he attempted to kill him. Beginning ""The first time I remember my father he was lying dead drunk on the living room floor,"" Nichols proceeds to recount the cycles of his father's alcoholism (the abuse, the tears, the cloying public charm) and its effects on the family -- three sons and a gentle sensitive wife, humiliated often beyond her strength. Nichols views his boyhood in a series of ""Haunted Houses"" and, in a stretch of macabre humor, he supplies a few portraits of neighborhood eccentrics. But throughout his narrative is dominated by outrage and bitterness at the suffering of his mother, who over the years clung to the tenet that her husband was ""not himself"" as she gradually atrophied into a fearsome passivity. Convinced after a third failed murder effort that his father was ""indestructible,"" Nichols (admittedly without the spiritual convictions of his cleric brother John) settled into a lifelong hatred. But after the death of his mother, when astonishingly and abruptly his father stopped drinking, Nichols tried to ""find this man."" But he could only fall back on the assumption that Nichols Sr. was ""possessed,"" that he was ""destroyed by drink, that his true personality was thereby expelled. . . ."" Within Nichols' often overwrought and semi-precious style the grief and savagery is still raw.