Nell Kimball operated lavish houses in San Francisco and New Orleans and began her red velvet catering as a worker in the vineyards in St. Louis. She wrote her story after her retirement from public service in 1917 when her New Orleans house was closed. Stephen Longstreet has shrewdly edited and deleted or changed ""names of well-known Americans."" The first chapter, ""My Last House,"" contains a Principles and Philosophy run-down (""I never had truck with the idea whores had hearts of gold. . . Linen is a big item""). After a scrabbly rural girlhood when the First Experience opened limitless vistas, through hard times (a marriage to a safe breaker and the death of their child after a stint in a nice friendly house) her kept woman stint led to money and madamhood. Tough as a bordello bouncer, Nell in the midst of anecdotes and unpleasantries sets her boundaries--""I don't say. . . that whoring is the best way of life, but it's better than. . . sweatshop sewing, or twenty hours work as a kitchen drudge, or housemaid. . . ."" But free love ruined the trade. Authentic last flickers from the days of the red light.