A. W. Gray, Author Dutton Books $20 (304p) ISBN 978-0-525-93625-1

He may not yet be as acclaimed as some of his colleagues, but Gray is about as powerful a purveyor of hard-boiled fiction as there is on the contemporary scene. Tall, tough Texas attorney Bino Phillips ( In Defense of Judges ) becomes involved in the search for a killer who drinks the blood of his prey after the madman murders two college girls who were to be the lawyer's surprise witnesses in a drug case. As the reader knows early and as law enforcement authorities learn midway through the book, high on the vampire killer's hit list is the lovely Dodie Peterson, Bino's secretary and possible love interest. Together with assistant DA Mel Strange and no-nonsense investigator Hardy Cole (in many ways a second--and equal--hero), Bino must not only track down the killer but must also deal with petty local cops and a pair of federal agents more interested in images and protocol than in catching ``Dracula Don.'' Gray paints vivid, compelling pictures of both major and minor characters. That skill may actually work against him here: his killer is so horrifyingly real that squeamish readers may be turned off. For the rest of us, nonstop action, sparkling dialogue and clever plot twists add up to one helluva read. (Aug.)