Ahead of the Seven Heroes, a Rankin Flats primer

The Seven Heroes is an entirely new urban fantasy/supernatural thriller series from me in a very familiar location to those of you who have read my previous supernatural thriller series. You don’t need to have read those in order to enjoy this series – this is (mostly) an entirely new cast of characters with only a few tangential connections to the old ones.

Coming June 22nd!

Now, that said, it might help new readers to have a primer on the fictional city of Rankin Flats and the returning organizations that will help shape the future of Randall Street. There will be very minor spoilers ahead for the Rankin Flats series, but nothing in the slightest that should affect your enjoyment of those novels – I hope.

Where and what is Rankin Flats?

Rankin Flats is a huge fictional city in eastern Montana. If you pop open a Google map of my home state, zoom in directly at the middle and look for Highway 12. Alternately, point one finger at Billings, then another at Great Falls, and bring those together at the midpoint. You should be roughly at a small town named Harlowton. Now go about fifty miles east of Harlow, and you’re looking roughly at an even tinier town named Lavina.

Lavina is what I consider to be the western edge of Rankin Flats. Now, from here, the city’s boundaries become a little looser, and I play fast and loose with eastern Montana geography depending on the needs of the novels. But you can roughly assume the city stretches northeast nearly to Fort Peck, and east about as far as Miles City. That’s about 200 miles (think San Diego to the edge of Lancaster, or thereabouts).

That makes it a big city, in more ways than one. Now, the city proper is only at the heart of that – someday I’ll digitize my maps and show you the major suburbs, such as Morristown to the northwest (which is where Garrett and Brianna live from the Rankin Flats supernatural thrillers as well as Gwen’s parents in A Shot at Us). Population-wise, it’s mentioned that it will overtake New York City within a few decades.

That brings me to the point – Rankin Flats is a hungry city. It’s spreading, and fast, and not in entirely healthy ways. Waves and waves of new chic areas are constantly being chewed up as the city expands farther south and east. Good housing is hard to find outside the city and its better suburbs, so instead, it’s dominated by housing tracts and trailer parks, particularly in the south and east.

Industry by now is largely a mix of everything, with a corporate heart (Scraper Row, mentioned elsewhere), ranching, farming, and the various arms of the service industry and the usual needs that would support a city this size. An international airport and railway shipping lanes don’t hurt either.

It’s also a wildly diverse city, especially for Montana. Latino, Asian, and eastern European communities have sprung up all throughout the city, and you can safely assume in a city this size that there would be people of all walks of life here that haven’t been mentioned yet.

But that’s not the only way Rankin Flats is diverse. There’s another, strange subset of population that has begun to emerge in recent years.

The Weird

By “weird,” I mean the supernatural or otherworldly gifted. This is a term introduced in Savor the Wicked to encompass all the various fantastical people and creatures of the world I’ve created, since just “supernatural” didn’t quite encompass everything.

Within the Rankin Flats novels, the supernatural was still hidden away from the world. Garrett Moranis, one of three protagonists in that series, could see the dead, but so far as he knew, he was an outlier until he began to encounter others with strange talents. Throughout those novels, he discovers magic is very real – and very dangerous. He fights at various points shapeshifters, telekinetics (here called catalysts, as telekinesis is not their only gift), and magicians. Things begin to get even weirder by the end of the novels, when the Tamawo – water creatures from Philippine myths – and Balor of the Evil-Eye make appearances as well. It is outright mentioned that Arthurian myths are very real, with one of the characters actually having murdered Merlin at one point for “talking too much.”

This is, then, a world of wild possibilities, where anyone and everything around you could possibly be supernatural – or weird. Thanks largely to the actions of several villains throughout that series, the world is slowly being exposed to the idea that the things they’ve read or fantasized about might be very real. The general populace still doesn’t believe, but there are those who have had to deal with the fallout of the supernatural or have witnessed it first-hand.

Numbering among them are the police, at least in Rankin Flats. They’ve just had to clean up too many messes not to know, or at least suspect. But the police arent’ the only people involved with the supernatural in Rankin Flats.

The Ranch

Led by FBI agent Annalise Fox, the Ranch is a special task force created after the events in For All the Sins of Man and Bone Carvers. They are the government’s response to the growing supernatural threat in Rankin Flats. They largely exist in a monitoring capacity, though they are slowly learning to deal with the larger threats to the city and taking a more active role to make sure the supernatural and the human worlds don’t clash too hard.

What they aren’t is naive. They’ve tried to keep a lid on the supernatural, but in a modern world of cell phone cameras and YouTube, they know it’s just a matter of time before the world as a whole believes in the existence of the weird. To prepare, they have allied themselves since their inception with supernaturally and otherworldly talented individuals, as well as unusually sharp humans with no talents to speak of, save raw intelligence and talent.

At the end of the Rankin Flats supernatural thrillers, the Ranch was largely situated out of an actual working ranch northwest of the city, with most their operations running out of an abandoned missile silo converted for their needs. Nowadays, their operations have grown. This brings me to…

Lucky Theresa

An extremely minor character in the Rankin Flats novels, Lucky Theresa has come up in the ranks since the days of working as an analyst for Annalise and the Ranch. Her past is unclear, at least for now, as is her role in the shaping of Randall Street, but this up-and-comer has a history with the supernatural, and her presence is about to be felt in a major way.

The Twin Tornadoes

Here we have the most influential incident from the Rankin Flats supernatural thrillers. Two record-shattering tornadoes hit Rankin Flats within minutes of each other in 2016, an incident that left over ten thousand people dead when the aftermath was taken into account. Even in a city this large, it was a devastating incident, and brought about a period of severe chaos before the pendulum swung in the opposite direction and the usually surly city turned out in force to help rebuild.

The tornadoes struck two areas of particular note – a financial district east of Scraper Row, the city’s heart, and a wide swath of trailer parks in the city’s southern suburbs.

Randall Street

Introduced in Beast, a horror novella unrelated to the cast of the Rankin Flats novels, Randall Street is one of the darker parts of Rankin Flats. It’s a place where you can get anything you want, so long as you’ve got the guts to venture there. During the day, find what you need in the countless shops and businesses in the area. At night, come to the night market, where hundreds of vendors set up an informal bazaar filled with everything the mind can imagine.

Randall Street is almost entirely unpoliced, and wildly dangerous to outsiders. In the events of Beast, two people are slaughtered here by a monstrous creature. This opened a lot of eyes to the supernatural, and along with some of the events of the Rankin Flats series, has left Rankin Flats law enforcement mostly aware of the weird.

The setting for the Seven Heroes, I greatly look forward to introducing you to more about Randall Street and Rankin Flats. But for now, you’re caught up. Don’t forget to preorder your copy of Savor the Wicked, coming June 22nd on Kindle with paperbacks to follow at a later date.

Thanks for reading, and welcome back to Rankin Flats.

Author: therealcamlowe

Writer, occasional victim of pug crop-dusting.

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