Lee, Tanith 1947-

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LEE, Tanith 1947-

PERSONAL: Born September 19, 1947, in London, England; daughter of Bernard and Hylda (Moore) Lee; married; husband's name John Kaiine. Education: Attended secondary school in London, England; studied at an art college. Hobbies and other interests: Past civilizations (Egyptian, Roman, Incan), psychic powers (their development, use, and misuse), music.

ADDRESSES: Office—c/o Macmillan London Ltd., 4 Little Essex St., London WC2R 3LF, England. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Bantam Books, 1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019.

CAREER: Writer and novelist, 1975–. Has also worked as a librarian.

AWARDS, HONORS: August Derleth Award, 1980; World Fantasy Award for best short story, 1983, for "The Gorgon," and 1984, for "Elle est Trois (La Mort)."



The Dragon Hoard, Farrar, Straus, and Giroux (New York, NY), 1971.

Volkhavaar, DAW (New York, NY), 1977.

Electric Forest, Doubleday (Garden City, NY), 1979.

Kill the Dead, DAW (New York, NY), 1980.

Sabella; or, The Blood Stone, DAW (New York, NY), 1980.

Day by Night, DAW (New York, NY), 1980.

Lycanthia; or, The Children of Wolves, DAW (New York, NY), 1981.

Sometimes, after Sunset (includes Sabella and Kill the Dead), Doubleday (New York, NY), 1981.

The Silver Metal Lover, DAW (New York, NY), 1982.

Sung in Shadow, DAW (New York, NY), 1983.

Days of Grass, DAW (New York, NY), 1985.

Dark Castle, White Horse, DAW (New York, NY), 1986.

A Heroine of the World, DAW (New York, NY), 1989.

The Blood of Roses, Century, 1990.

Heart-Beast, Headline (London, England), 1992, Dell (New York, NY), 1993.

Elephantasm, Headline (London, England), 1993.

Eva Fairdeath, Headline (London, England), 1994.

Reigning Cats and Dogs, Headline (London, England), 1995.

The Gods Are Thirsty, Overlook (Woodstock, NY), 1996.

Islands in the Sky, Random House, (New York, NY), 1999.

White as Snow, introduction by Terri Windling, Tor (New York, NY), 2000.

Vivia, Trafalgar Square, 2000.

Mortal Suns, Overlook Press (Woodstock, NY), 2003.

(With others) When Darkness Falls, (contains Shadow Kissing, by Tanith Lee, Kiss of the Wolf, by Susan Krinard, and The Devil She Knew, by Evelyn Vaughn), Silhouette Books (New York, NY) 2003.

Piratica: Being a Daring Tale of a Singular Girl's Adventure upon the High Seas, Dutton (New York, NY), 2004.

Metallic Love (sequel to The Silver Metal Lover), Bantam Books (New York, NY), 2005.


The Birthgrave, DAW (New York, NY), 1975.

Vazkor, Son of Vaskor, DAW (New York, NY), 1978, published as Shadowfire, Futura (London, England), 1979.

Quest for the White Witch, DAW (New York, NY), 1978.


Dark Dance, Dell (New York, NY), 1992.

Personal Darkness, Little, Brown (London, England), 1993, Dell (New York, NY), 1994.

Darkness, I, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1994.


Wolf Tower, Dutton Children's Books (New York, NY), 2000.

Wolf Star Rise, Hodder Children's Books (London, England), 2000, published as Wolf Star, Dutton Children's Books (New York, NY), 2000

Wolf Queen, Dutton Children's Books (New York, NY), 2001.

Wolf Wing, Hodder Children's Books (London, England), 2002, Dutton Children's Books (New York, NY) 2003.


The Castle of Dark, Macmillan (London, England), 1978.

Prince on a White Horse, Macmillan (London, England), 1982.


Don't Bite the Sun, DAW (New York, NY), 1976.

Drinking Sapphire Wine, DAW (New York, NY), 1977, published with Don't Bite the Sun, Hamlyn (London, England), 1979.


Black Unicorn, illustrated by Heather Cooper, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1991.

Gold Unicorn, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1994.

Red Unicorn, Tor (New York, NY), 1997.


The Book of the Damned (short stories), Unwin (London, England), 1988, Overlook Press (Woodstock, NY), 1990.

The Book of the Beast, Unwin (London, England), 1988, Overlook Press (Woodstock, NY), 1991.

The Book of the Dead (short stories), Overlook Press (Woodstock, NY), 1991.

The Book of the Mad, Overlook Press (Woodstock, NY), 1993.


Faces under Water, Overlook Press (Woodstock, NY), 1998.

Saint Fire, Overlook Press (Woodstock, NY), 2000.

A Bed of Earth (The Gravedigger's Tale), Overlook Press (Woodstock, NY), 2002.

Venus Preserved, Overlook Press (Woodstock, NY), 2003.


Night's Master, DAW (New York, NY), 1978.

Death's Master, DAW (New York, NY), 1979.

Delusion's Master, DAW (New York, NY), 1981.

Delirium's Mistress, DAW (New York, NY), 1986.

Night's Sorceries (short stories), DAW (New York, NY), 1987.

Tales from the Flat Earth: Night's Daughter (short stories), Doubleday (New York, NY), 1987.


The Storm Lord, DAW (New York, NY), 1976.

Anackire, DAW (New York, NY), 1983.

The Wars of Vis (contains The Storm Lord and Anackire), Doubleday (New York, NY), 1984.

The White Serpent, DAW (New York, NY), 1988.


The Dragon Hoard, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1971.

Animal Castle, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1972.

Companions on the Road, Macmillan (London, England), 1975.

The Winter Players, Macmillan (London, England), 1976.

East of Midnight, Macmillan (London, England), 1977, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 1978.

Shon the Taken, Macmillan (London, England), 1979.

Madame Two Swords, illustrated by Thomas Canty, Donald M. Grant (West Kingston, RI), 1988.


The Betrothed, Slughorn Press (Sidcup, Kent, England), 1968.

Princess Hynchatti and Some Other Surprises (juvenile), Macmillan (London, England), 1972, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1973.

Unsilent Night, NESFA Press (Cambridge, MA), 1981.

Cyrion, DAW (New York, NY), 1982.

Red as Blood; or, Tales from the Sisters Grimmer, DAW (New York, NY), 1983.

The Beautiful Biting Machine, Cheap Street (New Castle, VA), 1984.

Tamastara; or, The Indian Nights, DAW (New York, NY), 1984.

The Gorgon and Other Beastly Tales, DAW (New York, NY), 1985.

Dreams of Dark and Light: The Great Short Fiction of Tanith Lee, Arkham House (Sauk City, WI), 1986.

Forests of the Night, Unwin (London, England), 1989.

Nightshades: Thirteen Journeys into Shadow, Headline (London, England), 1993.


Women as Demons: The Male Perception of Women through Space and Time, Women's Press (London, England), 1989.


Bitter Gate (radio play), BBC Radio, 1977.

Red Wine (radio play), BBC Radio, 1977.

Death Is King (radio play), 1979.

The Silver Sky (radio play), 1980.

Sarcophagus (television play), 1980.

Sand (television play), 1981.

SIDELIGHTS: Tanith Lee's many works of fiction reveal a dark and erotic imagination at work in the fields of horror, science fiction, and fantasy. Through novels, short story collections, and series such as "The Secret Books of Paradys" and "Tales from the Flat Earth," Lee grapples with such perplexing questions as the fate of the universe, the individual's ability to control events, and the nature of morality. Her work has been cited by critics for its vivid imagery and unique cast of larger-than-life characters.

Lee was born, raised, and educated in London. She began her writing career with books for children, such as The Dragon Hoard and Animal Castle. Her first novel for adults, The Birthgrave, appeared in 1975. Since then she has published at least one novel or story collection a year, and in many years she has produced multiple works. "I intend my books for anyone who will enjoy them," Lee once commented. "Frankly, I write for me, I can't help it. My books are expressions of my private inner world. I love the idea that other people may read and perhaps relish them, but that, if it happens, is a delightful by-product."

Lee has never shied away from depicting the bizarre. Whether human or god, her heroes and heroines struggle against the madness and morbidity of their worlds. Their travails allow the author to expose human society and its failures as well as the ambiguities in the relationship between behavior and morality. Some of her novels and stories, such as the well-known Red as Blood; or, Tales from the Sisters Grimmer, turn popular fairy tales upside down to reveal darker and more diabolic suggestions. Myths and legends also form the basis of the "Tales from the Flat Earth" series, which includes Night's Master, Death's Master, and Delirium's Mistress. In the Washington Post Book World, Michael Swanwick described such works as "darkly, lushly romantic stuff, with silvery veins of eroticism and sinister beauty…. Her prose practically shimmers on the page."

Another well-known Lee series is "The Secret Books of Paradys," a selection of linked works that include stories, novellas, and novels. These books reveal the depraved lives of characters in a fictitious French town, variously named Paradys, Paradis, and Paradise. The parallel cities and their various malignant characters allow the author to ruminate on the frailties of modern society, especially in relationship to its younger members and its artists.

In 1998 Lee launched the series "The Secret Books of Venus" with Faces under Water. Set in an alternate fifteenth-century Venice, the novel tells the tale of a young patrician, Furian, who has turned his back on his family's wealth to perform various odd jobs around the city. He finds a mask floating in the canal that had belonged to a drowned magician. Shortly thereafter the gondolier who accompanied Furian is murdered, and Furian finds himself pursued by ruffians. Mean-while he has fallen in love with Eurydiche, a woman of incomparable beauty whose face remains forever locked in a single expression. When Furian discovers that Eurydiche's father is head of the Guild of Mask Makers, the two plot lines begin to dovetail. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly praised Lee's "jeweled prose" and concluded: "This is a fast start to what promises to be an exciting, innovative fantasy series." The second volume in the series, Saint Fire, is set in an alternate medieval Italy a few hundred years before Faces under Water. It concerns a young slave girl, Volpa, who possesses the ability to spontaneously generate fire from her red hair. Volpa incinerates a man who tries to rape her. When word of her talent spreads, Volpa is soon adopted by Fra Danielus, a priest who grooms her for war against the invading infidels. Salle Estes of Booklist commented: "Lee's sensual and evocative storytelling imparts a dreamlike quality to this tale of transcendent faith and human passion." A Publishers Weekly critic praised Saint Fire for its "evocative imagery and memorable characters."

A Bed of Earth is a "deliciously creepy third installment" book in "The Secret Books of Venus" series, observed a reviewer in Publishers Weekly. Two powerful families of Venus, the della Scorpias and the Barbarons, are locked in a bitter feud over a precious parcel of burial ground on the isle of the dead. When Meralda della Scorpia flees the arranged marriage between herself and a withered old man, she goes with her lover. Later, the Meralda and her lover are both brutally killed, but her son survives to grow up determined to visit revenge upon her killers. When Bartolome the gravemaker incredulously learns of his own unsuspected role in the story of the feud, it becomes clear that powerful family stories do not end at death, and the grave can sometimes be only a temporary dwelling place. Lee's alternate interpretation of Venus presents a version of the sixteenth century "beautifully transmogrified into a world in which spirits walk the streets and heaven can be visited," commented Regina Schroeder in Booklist.

Venus Preserved, the fourth book in the series, finds the once-drowned city of Venus saved and placed in a dome under the sea, run by a vast artificial intelligence network. Anyone who can prove descent from the original residents of the city is invited to live there. As the city is repopulated, genetic scientists use recovered DNA to resurrect a female gladiator from the first century and a composer from the eighteenth century. Flayd, the archaeologist who discovered the gladiator's genetic material, and surface-dwelling musician Picaro begin to suspect that something is wrong with the carefully tended city, and that the scientists and the computers are involved in something that will lead to catastrophe.

Another aspect of Lee's work has involved the retelling of classic myths and fairy tales, often providing surprising twists on the original stories in terms of characterization, plot resolution, and moral content. Her "Tales from the Flat Earth" series takes place in a fantasy world rife with demons, wizards, and swordplay. Rendered in an episodic fashion reminiscent of The Thousand and One Nights, this series incorporates many classic myths and legends. Reviewing the second volume, Death's Master, in The Scope of the Fantastic, Michael R. Collings noted that Lee's successful use of "archaic, exotic, and elevated" language made readers feel as if they were "suddenly being immersed in an unfamiliar world." In a like vein, Michael Stamm wrote in Fantasy Review that Lee's prose is "very rich, reminiscent of Clark Ashton Smith's."

White as Snow uses the classic fairy tale of Snow White as its starting point. However, in Lee's version readers are first introduced to the original story's evil queen, Princess Arpazia, when she is a young girl. Arpazia is raped by Draco, a barbarian conqueror who also murders Arpazia's sister. Draco eventually marries Arpazia and forces her to travel with him on his military campaigns. The child of their union is abandoned by Queen Arpazia, both in fact and for the most part in memory. Unable to face the realities of her life, the woman retreats into solitude and spends most of her time staring into a magic mirror admiring her own beauty. When a rival appears in the mirror's reflection, Arpazia fails to recognize her own daughter, Coira, and has the young girl kidnapped. A Publishers Weekly reviewer concluded that "with its melancholy shading, Lee's new twist on an old tale is sure to engage fans of dark fantasy." In contrast, a writer for Kirkus Reviews remarked: "What with the illogical plot and largely unsympathetic characters, even Lee's stylish prose can't breathe new vitality into the familiar old tale."

Except for a six-year hiatus in the mid-1980s, Lee has continued to pen numerous books for children and young adults throughout her career, including several series. In an overview of Lee's writings for a young audience, an essayist in the St. James Guide to Young Adult Writers stressed the author's ability to address such themes "as the search for identity, coping with inept and uncaring authority figures, abandonment, loneliness, and many other issues that face adolescent readers." While finding that Lee's language is at times too sophisticated for younger readers, the same essayist concluded: "This weakness … is overshadowed by the generally dynamic nature of her prose." Reviewing one of Lee's early juvenile novels, East of Midnight, in the Times Literary Supplement, Peter Hammond stated: "Whereas the interchange of minds is rather circumstantial for magic, the world of women-kings who ride lions and dispose of their weak male consorts every five years flashes with ideas. It also touches deeper themes of love, sex, and honor, and reaches a moving climax."

Lee's Red Unicorn entry in her juvenile "Dragonflight" series, fared less well with reviewers. Estes found this tale of a young princess's travails in parallel universes to be the weakest of the series and to contain "only flashes of the wit found in the first two books," and a reviewer in Publishers Weekly noted: "The whole novel seems carelessly tossed off and not what you'd expect from a World Fantasy Award winner."

In 2000 Lee began a new juvenile series, the "Claidi Journals," with Wolf Tower. The novel introduces Claidi, a young slave girl who runs away into a supposed wasteland with Neiman, a young man who has literally fallen from the sky in a hot air balloon. The pair experience various adventures in their travels, confront fierce beasts, and are ultimately befriended by a gypsy-like tribe of bandits. Although Claidi is drawn to Argul, the tribe's nineteen-year-old leader, she decides to accompany Neiman to his home city where the Wolf Tower of the title can be found. Yet the world to which Neiman takes Claidi turns out to be far sadder and more authoritarian than anything she expected. Kathleen Isaacs in School Library Journal found Lee's "fantasy world … clearly and humorously described; its varied cultures … both amusing and believable." Isaac also felt that Claidi was "a likable heroine with whom fantasy readers can easily identify."

After being kidnapped by agents of the Wolf Tower in Wolf Star, the second book of the series, Claidi finally returns home in the third book, Wolf Queen. However, her homecoming is bitterly unhappy, as she faces rejection by the remaining members of the Hulta, who think she is a traitor and a deserter and blame her for the abdication of their beloved ruler, Argul. Determined to reunite with her once-betrothed, Claidi heads across the Frozen North in search of Argul, she is ultimately rejected. She is later taken to the Raven Tower, the rival of the Wolf Tower, where she meets a woman she believes to be her mother. There are multiple lay-ers of deception at work at Raven Tower, however, and Claidi must summon all her skills and intelligence to determine what she can believe. "Although most of the wonder here comes from Lee's mysteriously evocative settings, Claidi remains a feisty, irreverent heroine," commented a Kirkus Reviews contributor.

The "Claidi Journals" concludes with Wolf Wing, which finds Claidi and Argul reconciled and about to be married. As the two travel about the lands, they return to Claidi's original home and revisit previous character motivations, questions of Claidi's parents, and past intrigues. When Argul discovers that his sorceress mother, Ustareth, is alive and has created a far-off mystical land, he travels there with Claidi and companions and finds answers to long-unanswered questions. "Claidi's world, especially Ustareth's island, is well drawn, and readers will appreciate the detail and humor Lee uses in describing people and places visited," noted School Library Journal contributor Beth L. Meister.

A stand-alone novel for young-adult readers, Piratica, Being a Daring Tale of a Singular Girl's Adventure upon the High Seas follows sixteen-year-old Artemesia Fitz-Willoughby, alias Art Blastside, as she swashbuckles across the high seas, looking to reclaim the lifestyle led by her high-adventuring mother. After awakening from a blow to the head, Artemesia abruptly remembers scenes from her childhood in which pirates, sailing vessels, and nautical derring-do feature prominently. She further remembers that her mother was not a famous pirate after all, but an actress performing in a show about pirates. Undaunted, Artemesia gathers the former crew—all actors—and exhorts them to a life under the Jolly Roger, sailing in a real ship and living a genuine pirate lifestyle. A Kirkus Reviews contributor called Piratica a "glorious roustabout of a tale, full of yummy set pieces and terrific adventures, unbelievable in a most satisfying way." Gerry Larson, writing in School Library Journal, concluded that the novel is "a refreshing, tongue-in-cheek, tangled tale that will entice readers who crave adventure and fantasy."

Moving back to writing for adults, Metallic Love is a sequel to The Silver Metal Lover, in which Silver, the first of a new breed of amazing robots, becomes too perfect and falls in love with a human woman named Jane. Loren, the protagonist of Metallic Love, is familiar with the story of Silver and Jane; it happened some years before she was born to a prostitute mother and left at a religious orphanage. Her upbringing has made her streetwise and smart, but Laren still dreams of meeting Silver some day. For unknown reasons, META Corporation, which produced the generation of robots containing Silver, has decided to produce a new line of robots able to transform their shape and designed to please humans in all ways. When Loren sees a robot she thinks is Silver, she has to meet him. The robot, named Verlis, retains all of Silver's memories, and even looks like the ill-fated robot—all the better to help META Corporation figure out and isolate what was different about the original Silver. As Loren and Verlis come into increasing contact, emotions blossom on both sides, and Loren discovers the incredible truth about Verlis. In this sequel, "plot and its twists matter more," observed Michelle West in the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. "But if this book is entirely different, it's certainly not a failure, and reading it doesn't destroy what was there before; it is not a kind book, but it's not without power and even hope."

In Mortal Suns Princess Callistra is born disabled, with no feet. Consigned to the Temple of Thon by her mother, Queen Hetsa, the princess is expected to die there. Instead, she survives the harrowing ordeal in the temple of the death god and eventually learns to walk on crutches. After King Akreon dies and Hetsa is poisoned, Callistra returns to her royal birthright at the palace. Her brother, Klyton, falls in love with her, and orders that she be taught to walk on luxurious silver feet especially made for her. But having Callistra as consort is not destined to make Klyton happy; he and his brothers face death and disaster and events that will have lasting ill effects on the kingdom and their ruling dynasty. The book "contains strong elements of Lee's mesmerizing prose," observed Patricia Altner in Library Journal.

Lee once told CA: "I began to write, and continue to write, out of the sheer compulsion to fantasize. I can claim no noble motives, no aspirations that what comes galloping from my Biro will overthrow tyranny, unite nations or cause roses to bloom in the winter snow. I just want to write, can't stop, don't want to stop, and hope I never shall.

"As a writer who has been lucky enough to make writing her profession, I am most undisciplined and erratic. One day I will commence work at four in the afternoon and persevere until four the next morning. Sometimes I start at four in the morning, and go on until physical stamina gives out. Sometimes I get stuck on some knotty problem, (how do you describe the emotions of a man who finds he is a god? What will he do now he knows? Is there any point in his doing anything? Yes. What?) and worry about said problem for days, pen poised, eyes glazed. Frequently I race through 150 pages in a month, and then stick for three months over one page. It's a wonder to me I get anything done. But I do, so presumably it's all right.

"I admire far too many writers to make a list. I'm always discovering new ones to admire. Some operate in the Fantasy/Science Fiction field; a lot don't. I think I can say that I've been influenced by everything I've read and liked. But I'm influenced by symphonies and concertos, too, by paintings and by films. And sometimes by people. A character. A sentence."



St. James Guide to Young Adult Writers, 2nd edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1999.


Booklist, June 1, 1997, Sally Estes, review of Red Unicorn, p. 1685; April 15, 2000, Sally Estes, review of Wolf Tower, p. 1543; April 15, 2002, Sally Estes, review of Wolf Queen, p. 1418; August, 2002, Regina Schroeder, review of A Bed of Earth, p. 1938; September 1, 2003, Frieda Murray, review of Mortal Suns, p. 75; September 1, 2004, Sally Estes, review of Wolf Wing, p. 119; October 15, 2003, Frieda Murray, review of Venus Preserved, p. 399; October 1, 2004, Gillian Engberg, review of Piratica, p. 323.

Bookseller, January 16, 2004, Claudia Mody, review of Piratica, p. 37.

Fantasy Review, April, 1985, Michael E. Stamm, review of Death's Master, p. 25.

Kirkus Reviews, November 1, 2000, review of White as Snow, p. 1523; May 1, 2002, review of Wolf Queen, p. 659; June 1, 2003, review of Mortal Suns, p. 783; September 1, 2004, review of Piratica, p. 869.

Kliatt, January, 2002, Claire Rosser, review of Wolf Tower, p. 18.

Library Journal, November 15, 1999, Jackie Cassada, review of Saint Fire, p. 101; September 15, 2002, Jackie Cassada, review of A Bed of Earth, p. 96; July, 2003, Patricia Altner, review of Mortal Suns, p. 133; October 15, 2003, Michael Rogers, review of Black Unicorn, p. 103.

Locus, April, 1998, "Tanith Lee: Love & Death & Publishers."

Los Angeles Times Book Review, June 6, 1993, p. 11.

Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, June, 2005, Michelle West, review of Metallic Love, p. 33.

MBR Bookwatch, March, 2005, Harriet Klausner, review of Metallic Love.

Publishers Weekly, July 21, 1989, Penny Kaganoff, review of A Heroine of the World, p. 55; October 26, 1990, review of The Book of the Damned, p. 58; January 1, 1992, review of The Book of the Dead, p. 50; May 19, 1997, review of Red Unicorn, p. 70; June 8, 1998, review of Faces under Water, p. 51; October 19, 1999, review of Saint Fire, p. 75; November 20, 2000, review of White as Snow, p. 51; August 19, 2002, review of A Bed of Earth, p. 71; August 4, 2003, review of Mortal Suns, p. 61; November 24, 2003, "Return of the Time Travelers," review of Wolf Wing, p. 66.

Resource Links, October, 2003, K. V. Johansen, "The Nineties: Rushdie, Pullman, Pratchett, Louise Cooper, and Tanith Lee," p. 30.

Review of Contemporary Fiction, Laura Pedrick, review of The Book of the Mad, pp. 238-239.

School Library Journal, June, 2000, Kathleen Isaacs, review of Wolf Tower, p. 148; June, 2002, Saleena L. Davidson, review of Wolf Queen, p. 141; October, 2003, Beth L. Meister, review of Wolf Wing, p. 170; December, 2004, Gerry Larson, review of Piratica, p. 149; April, 2005, review of Piratica, p. S58.

Times Literary Supplement, October 21, 1977, Peter Hunt, review of East of Midnight, p. 1246.

Voice of Youth Advocates, February, 1990, review of A Heroine of the World, p. 372; December, 1991, review of Black Unicorn, p. 324.

Wilson Library Bulletin, April, 1992, Frances Bradburn, review of Black Unicorn, p. 96.


AllSciFi.com Web site, http://www.allscifi.com/ (September 5, 2005), Max Russell, review of East of Midnight; Katie Becker, review of The Silver Metal Lover; Harriet Klausner, review of Venus Preserved; Sophie Weiner, review of Wolf Tower.

Tabula Rasa Web sitehttp://www.tabula-rasa.info/ (September 5, 2005), interview with Lee.

Tanith Lee Home Page, http://www.tanithlee.com (September 5, 2005).