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Arlington-based novelist Steven Spruill spent his early days surrounded by the wonders of medical science, living near, and later working in, W.K. Kellogg’s infamous Battle Creek, Mich., sanitarium. Which may explain why, back in the ’70s, he began researching and writing Robin Cook-style medical thrillers. “I worked at the San off and on from the time I was 15 until 22,” Spruill remembers. “It was a great big building with a colonnade out front…and a huge attic on the sixth floor, which was a wonder for a 15-year-old kid. They had these wooden [devices] up there that Kellogg had built to do God knows what. The San was a spooky place….It definitely had an impact on my writing.”

The new novel by the 51-year-old Spruill (rhymes with “pool”), Daughter of Darkness, is a sort-of-sequel to 1995’s Rulers of Darkness, and features characters—heroes and villains and, most notably, ones who walk the fine line—who need a bit more than Special K to start their days. They are hemophages: They drink human blood. Daughter’s hero is Dr. Jenn Hrluska, an intern at a D.C. hospital whose relatively normal life—she harmlessly sips the blood of sleeping patients—is thrown out of whack when her nasty, vampirical father shows up for a showdown.

“Hemophages are the reality behind the myth of vampires,” Spruill says. “It’s a fictional conceit of mine. I see ‘phages as predators: They’re nice-looking and you want to be around them….A hemophage is a vampire for the ’90s. It’s an updating of the Bram Stoker myth from a medical, scientific standpoint.”—Sean Daly

Spruill will read from and sign copies of Daughter of Darkness at 7 p.m. June 18 at Border’s Bailey’s Crossroads, (703) 998-0404.