SANTA MONICA, CALIF. -- She hasn't discussed politics with her father since 1982, or talked to the media about her family relationships since 1986. But that doesn't stop Patti Davis, the Reagan family's number one outcast, from talking about politics -- including her family's -- with the media today. She thinks the biggest threat to mankind is what's happening to the environment and says of her father's efforts, "It bothers me terribly that we lost eight years under his administration." She believes drug abuse can't be separated from the abuse of human life and thinks her mother's anti-drug campaign was "a little simple. I don't think I could go into an inner-city neighborhood where kids have nothing ... and say, 'Just say no to drugs.' " She says she would register and then "confiscate" weapons and, thinking of Barbara Bush's early comments on gun control, blurts, "She should be president. I would feel much better." More importantly, it hasn't stopped her from writing about both politics and family relationships. After all these years of taking stands that nobody in the family listened to, much less agreed with, Patti Davis, ex-struggling actress, says she's found her forum. Fiction. Her second effort, "Deadfall," published by Crown, is about U.S. involvement in Nicaragua. She says she wrote this one by herself, only turning for help to activist friends when she needed technical, geographical, political and philosophical authenticity -- friends like actor Mike Farrell ("M*A*S*H"); former CIA analyst David MacMichael, who quit during Reagan's first term when told to substantiate administration charges that Nicaragua was sending arms to Salvadoran guerrillas; Eric Hamburg, a former legislative aide to Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.); screenwriter David Seltzer; and Hollywood producer and veteran cinematographer Haskell Wexler. An early review from Publishers Weekly called it "an absorbing second novel." "Home Front," the semi-autobiographical first effort she wrote with Maureen Strange Foster about the rebellious daughter of a California governor and his ambitious wife, cut uncomfortably close to her own home front when it came out in 1986. Winning scant, if any, artistic acclaim but considerable criticism, the book further antagonized then-President Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan, whose Hollywood friends heeded White House cries for help by banning Davis from their talk shows. Both Merv Griffin and Joan Rivers, who was substituting for Johnny Carson at the time, canceled Davis's appearances. The Carson show later paid Davis, in keeping with AFTRA regulations, but she says Griffin did not. The schism that ensued between Davis and her parents remains. "I'm the only one who hasn't gone on television talking about details of my relationship with my family," she said. Nancy Reagan's forthcoming book, "My Turn," is expected to rekindle discussion about Davis's bonds with her mother. "Well," says Davis of that, "I can't control what anybody else says. It's no secret that we're not a close-knit family, but I just don't think the details are anything I want to get into. Last time I hardly ever got a chance to talk about my book, with all of those piddly little questions." So this time around she has decided she does not have to answer them if she doesn't want to. "The bottom line is that it's really nobody's business." This time around it also helps that Davis is somewhat more cautious in her portrayal of a fictional president, bringing him in for only a cameo appearance near the end of the tale to announce that he had asked Congress to declare war on Nicaragua. She says she was purposely imprecise about whether the president knew there had been a setup of compelling circumstances justifying war. "I deliberately left vague how much higher than the CIA things went. I realized it's very possible for the CIA to carry things out, but that you don't know how high up it goes," she says, then suggests a scenario in which the president didn't know: "It's much scarier to me that the system of checks and balances isn't working. I could have made the president a madman, but that's not as scary, because when he's out of office then everything's all settled. "If you integrate into our system of government an organization that can pretty well do what it damn well pleases, including assassination plots, it's much scarier because then you really have subverted the Constitution and the whole foundation of democracy, which was supposed to prevent things like that." Does that mean she believes her father, the real-life president who presided over an administration planning to trade arms for hostages as a means of aiding the so-called Nicaraguan "freedom fighters," was unaware of what the CIA was doing in the Iran-contra affair? "I don't know. I have no idea," she says. Does she have an opinion about it? "I probably wouldn't express it because he's said that he didn't and I'm certainly not going to call somebody a liar. I have no evidence to substantiate that," she says. She wrote the book, she says, because in 1986 there was "not a doubt in my mind that what was on the agenda was to invade Nicaragua. I just knew it. I listened to the rhetoric and a lot of people knew it." She had already submitted an outline for a book along those lines to Crown when Eugene Hasenfus, the American mercenary on a supply mission to U.S.-backed rebels in Nicaragua, was shot down that October. She thought about going to Nicaragua to do research. "But I really felt I would have been taking my life in my hands while my father was still president. I mean, his administration instigated that war and kept it going." Her 1982 political rupture with her father came after she took Helen Caldicott, an Australian anti-nuclear activist, to the White House to meet Reagan. "We were so far apart you couldn't even draw a line between the two of us," she says. In the Oval Office that day, she and Caldicott showed Reagan a copy of a Defense Department report, one she says anybody could have gotten under the Freedom of Information Act. "Its conclusion was that we had, basically, parity with the Soviet Union militarily; we were strong in some areas and they were strong in others, but it basically supported the stands that we don't have to keep arming ourselves, that we've got enough already. And he took a look at it, just glanced at it, and said, 'That's a forgery,' " Davis remembers. "So what are you going to say? I mean, there's nowhere to go -- there were all dead ends. It was a very, very painful experience for me. It was sort of like the past and the future colliding. I had to realize that all the illusions I had in the past -- that I could at least get this other viewpoint heard, or sway him a little bit -- were silly illusions, and I felt very guilty because I was involved in the movement and had this proximity to the White House. And I felt I should have been able to do more," says Davis. Disagreements From the Start At 36, and married, Patti Davis seems to have found her niche in a middle-class West Santa Monica neighborhood where you remodel rather than move up, where you're on a first-name basis with neighborhood dogs and their owners. She'd always been attracted to men who were older than she -- "sometimes a lot older," she says, though Bernie Leadon, the Eagles lead guitarist with whom she lived for a time during the 1970s, was only six years her senior. In 1982 she met Paul Grilley, six years her junior, the substitute yoga instructor of a class she was taking in Beverly Hills. "It wasn't love at first sight at all, not at all. He was kind of cute. He was a struggling teacher and people were asking him home for dinner. So I asked him to dinner." They were married in 1984 ("When you have a daughter over 30, I think your parents are relieved"), bought a small house, sold it for a profit, then bought the two-bedroom, one-bath Spanish-style house they live in now. Grilley teaches in the back yard; she writes at a roll-top desk in the back bedroom and grows flowers for a hobby. There's a dog named Sadie; a pet squirrel named Squirmy that refuses to move away since Davis nursed it back to health from the brink of death; golden oak antiques; a treehouse she and Squirmy use; and, dangling from a front-yard tree, a climber's rope, which she has told Grilley has to come down on Halloween because "I know how kids are." It's only five miles but worlds away from Bel Air, where her parents live now, or from Pacific Palisades, where they lived when she was a kid. By her description of growing up in the Reagan household, she was the family outcast from the beginning, her views rejected and belittled from the time she was an adolescent. "What bothered me didn't bother other people in the family," she says. "The common comeback was 'Where did you hear that?' And about half the time I couldn't remember and didn't think I had heard it anyplace. I don't think that's a good thing for a child because the implication is that he can't think for himself, so he must have heard it somewhere." In time she decided "it was just easier to remain quiet. It seemed safer. I couldn't win. "I always felt I was very strange. I didn't quite understand why I was in this family," she says. She never tried to discuss that with her parents. "My beliefs are that you've lived before and will be born again and you're born to the people you're born to. So I try to figure out what I must have been, who were these people in my life before that I was born in this situation now, where we have such opposite viewpoints on everything. In fact, I had a line in 'Home Front' where Beth wonders if they mixed up the babies in the hospital. I'm sure I've thought about that." The brown hair cascading over her shoulder matches the deep brown of her eyes, and, except for her tall, rangy frame, the resemblance to a young, brunette Nancy Davis is unmistakable, just as it is with her younger brother, Ron. "I know, I know, all you have to do is look at me" -- even her laugh has a rhythm that's suggestive of her mother's -- "so it couldn't be that." But to Patti Davis as a youngster, the differences were perplexing. "There was so much emotion in our family. Everyone would sort of fly off the handle at things." She remembers at the age of 12 or 13 asking her parents if she could talk to a psychiatrist, thinking that if you approached things analytically you could avoid certain emotional situations. "They wouldn't let me because it was something you were ashamed of, that you wouldn't tell any of your friends about. So it wasn't acceptable at all. But as soon as I had any money at all, I did go." At 14 she went away to a private boarding school in Arizona. Once the Reagans paid a visit shortly after she had had her ears pierced. Nancy Reagan's disapproval was intense, Davis recalls. "She didn't pull the earrings off, but she had a fit. She went and sat in the car." Ronald Reagan was characteristically quick with a quip. "My father said, 'Well, before you get your appendix out would you let us know?' " The disagreements of her adolescence presaged those she would have with her parents throughout life. "It was kind of everything. My parents liked nice things. They had wealthy friends. And I wanted to go join the circus," she says. Reagan in Office: 'Very Disturbing' By the time Ronald Reagan was ensconced in the White House, Patti Davis was reaching back into her memories and finding things that didn't track. "I remember when he sold the ranch out at Malibu. One condition of the sale was that he wouldn't sell it to a developer. ... He had enough of a conscience about that that he didn't want a housing development there. So he sold it to 20th Century Fox, which had property on either side. Now it's state parkland. So I don't understand how you could do that on the one hand and on the other hand support offshore oil drilling, the cutting down of forests and want to dismantle the EPA {Environmental Protection Agency}," says Davis, who is active in environmental causes, particularly efforts to prevent the slaughter of dolphins. "I guess I'm still very idealistic, but I just don't understand how you can play politics with parts of the earth that will never be the same. I mean, once you cut down a rain forest it's gone and you can't put it back. Once you wipe out an entire species of animal you can't put them back. I think very few people are concerned about the kind of world they will leave their children. Politicians talk about it and then they destroy it." An enigma for sure, but was Ronald Reagan also an embarrassment to her? "No, I would never say that because it would sound mean," she says, battling to keep some equanimity as an observer rather than a daughter. "It was just very, very disturbing that I saw him doing this and I couldn't understand, had absolutely no control." If Patti Davis never quite understood Ronald and Nancy Reagan, she says that Edith Davis, Nancy's mother, never quite understood her -- at least in her later years. Patti Davis's absence from her grandmother's funeral in October 1987 was, reportedly, the cause of great emotional stress for Nancy Reagan -- and the subject of considerable criticism -- though Davis says she explained to her mother that she had plans to be out of the country and could not change them. Edith and Loyal Davis's home in Phoenix had been a frequent stop for Patti when she was a teenage boarding school student. But as a young adult, outspoken about her political differences with her father, she drew rebuke from Edith Davis. "She was very insulting to me at times, like, 'You're criticizing your father publicly. You ought to shut up.' So I didn't see her at all after my grandfather died {in 1982}. I wanted to remember her the way she was," says Davis. Oddly enough, the opinionated and strong-willed Loyal Davis, the Chicago neurosurgeon who married Nancy Reagan's mother and later adopted Nancy, and who had been an intimidating presence most of Patti Davis's life, became the one person with whom she could communicate as he got older, she says. "It made me feel very special. I was really drawn to him because he mellowed toward the end and told me things he didn't tell anybody else, or made me promise not to tell anybody else. He really opened up." So much so, apparently, that she may weave some of his confidences to her into her next book, which she describes sketchily as "a family saga, a more personal story, smaller in scope" than her two published works, both written against a backdrop of war. She no longer tries to get acting jobs. "I had this thing that I should be successful as an actress. I think I expected it of myself. I thought I had some talent for it and shouldn't let go of it," she says. But then along came this business of writing books, allowing her the luxury of working at home. "Writing has always been what I've been happiest doing," she says. She doesn't miss acting, especially the auditions and the indignities actors have to put up with. "I think actors are treated very badly. I think that I was treated badly sometimes because of my name, because of who I was -- after my father was elected president." "Rejection is hard," she says. "And in Hollywood, people dole out rejection so often."