Bernard C. Welch, the accused slayer of Washington cardiologist Michael Halberstam, has proudly described his life of crime in a new magazine interview and photo essay, for which he will be paid about $9,000.

Welch, an alleged master thief, says in the February issue of Life magazine that the victims of his crimes here "would read like a who's who of Washington politics."

He also said that an estimated $4 million worth of items confiscated by police from his Great Falls, Va., home was just "peanuts" compared with the overall amount he has stolen over the years, according to Life news editors Jonathan Z. Larsen.

Life has agreed to pay Welch for an exclusive jailhouse interview and apparently for nine photographs of him, including one taken recently at D.C. Jail, where Welch has been held without bond since he was charged in the slaying of Halberstam Dec. 5.

Life contracted with an attorney representing Welch's literary interests and agreed to pay Welch about $1,000 for each photo it uses from different stages of his life, twice the rate the magazine normally pays.

Welch has already been the subject of much publicity in connection with the Halberstam case and other crimes, including hundreds of burglaries and several rapes, that Washington area police have alleged he committed. People magazine has a four-page article containing several photos of Welch in its current issue. A well-known detective magazine is planning to cover Welch's trial.

However, Welch has denied all interview requests except for the one in Life. The eight-page spread on Welch in Life is expected to be on newsstands near the end of this month.

"He is quite proud of his accomplishments as a burglar," said Larsen, who edited the Life article. "He is a man who takes great pride in his profession. He talks about his career in crime quite eloquently, how he practiced it and escalated his endeavors."

Larsen said that Welch, however, sidesteps the issue of whether he shot Halberstam at the physician's Northwest Washington home during a burglary. Life reporter Hillary Johnson, who conducted the Welch interview, also interviewed Elliot Jones, Halberstam's widow, according to Larsen, and had talked to Halberstam himself about a year before the shooting.

Larsen said Welch expresses a "virtual obsession with robbing people, explaining where it all came from and how he rationalized it."

Welch's attorney, Sol Z. Rosen, declined comment yesterday on the Life interview. Welch had told a D.C. Superior Court judge that he was indigent, having no cash on hand or property in his name. The payment from Life, to be made on publication of this issue, is expected to be sent to Washington attorney Martin E. Firestone, whom Rosen has asked to represent Welch's literary insterests.

It could not be learned whether the money will be paid directly to Welch, held in an escrow account or paid to some third party, such as Linda Sue Hamilton, the woman with whom Welch lived since 1976.

Hamilton provided Life with a virtual scrapbook of Welch's personal, unpublished photographs, from which Life selected those it will include in the article. The photo of Welch -- in manacles -- in his D.C. Jail cell was taken before Welch shaved all of his facial and head hair prior to a D.C. police lineup. Only one victim of crimes allegedly committed by Welch identified him at the lineup.

The Internal Revenue Service already has filed $24.2 million in federal tax liens against Welch and Hamilton. An IRS spokesman said yesterday that if any criminal defendant owing money to the government received money, the IRS could attempt to attach that money.

Firestone acknowledged yesterday that he represented Welch's interests in the Life deal but declined further comment. Firestone apparently was asked by Rosen to represent Welch to prevent any possible conflict of interest in Rosen's criminal defense of Welch.