THE LONG NIGHT OF THE WHITE CHICKENS By Francisco Goldman (Faber, $68) THE first thing that has to be said about Francisco Goldman's debut as a novelist is that his book's 450 pages have been printed in one of those tiny, obviously economical typefaces much loved by publishers of modern paperbacks. But readers with perseverance will find this an entertaining novel. Mr Goldman's plot never misses a beat as it pumps back and forth between metropolitan life in frenetic Guatemala City and the almost soporific suburbia of leafy Boston, US. Further contrast is provided by central character Roger Graetz's affair with poor but beautiful orphan girl Flor de Mayo Puac. Roger, you see, comes from upper class maternal roots and his testy Amazon of a mother does not altogether approve of her dearest taking off with parent-less stock. The fact that grandma Abuelita approves of the tryst just adds more chilli to this con carne plot. But the meat of this energetic story comes with Roger's search for the truth about his beloved Flor. Mr Goldman's job of contributing editor with Harper's Magazine has taught him how to keep a story alive, how to add sudden corners to a plot to retain the reader's attention. In this he risks overwhelming his style. The Long Night of the White Chickens is excellent for a new novelist but it is to be hoped that his future books become more measured.