WORDS AND IMAGES : Tales From the Beat : Author/policeman Paul Bishop finds grist for his novels in the real-life stories of his colleagues.

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"I think policemen make the best storytellers in the world," says Camarillo resident Paul Bishop, a Los Angeles Police Department detective.

"When you spend eight hours with someone in a squad car or on a stakeout, the war stories just start flying."

Bishop, author of five published novels, said he accumulated a lifetime of stories during the Los Angeles riots. He has worked in Los Angeles police divisions from juvenile to anti-terrorism, but nothing, he said, compares to the frenzy and fury he encountered during the recent riots. He was assigned to units ordered out to protect firefighters.

"I was sent back into uniform, the first time for me in 13 years," said Bishop. "I was shot at, spit at, rocked and bottled more times in those few days than in my entire 15-year career on the force. It was scary, gut-wrenching and at the same time grist for the mill as my writer's brain stored everything happening around me."

Bishop is a prolific writer. "Shroud of Vengeance" was published in 1985, followed by the best-selling "Citadel Run" in 1988. The hardcover edition of "Sand Against the Tide" came out in 1990, and the paperback version has just been released. "Chapel of the Ravens" hit the bookstores in 1991, and this year's title is "Elvis Calling." Avon Books will publish his sixth novel, "Darling Kill Me Again," next year.

It takes extraordinary discipline to be a working cop and a successful novelist. This one is also a voracious reader. His private library includes more than 3,000 mystery titles. He is an active member of a number of mystery and crime writers associations.

Have you ever wanted to see again a dimly remembered but beloved book from another time in your life? Do literary ephemera, odd little collectible bits and pieces, maps and posters or old and out-of-print books get you excited? Well, the Ventura Book Fair Associates will assemble a dazzling array of collectible and hard-to-find titles at the Ventura County Fairgrounds, 10 W. Harbor Blvd., Ventura. Contact Michael Weinstein at 643-3407 for details.

Congratulations to Susan Harmon of Port Hueneme whose first novel, a Western, "Colorado Ransom," has just been published by Walker & Co.

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