Described by Bono as "Dante's Inferno for the MTV generation", Fools Rush In deftly straddles the line between war journal, music reportage and personal memoir.

The first part is divided between Carter's harsh experiences in war-torn, mid-1990s Sarajevo and flashbacks to a troubled childhood with a disturbed father.

The chapters devoted to his romance with the love of his life, Corrina, are particularly evocative but the Sarajevo sections, which detail Carter's involvement with The Serious Road Trip, a maverick British aid agency, sometimes make for arduous reading. It picks up pace in the second half, as the author's stint in Sarajevo gains a sense of purpose.

Carter stumbles into an interview with Bono and convinces the U2 frontman to publicise what was happening in Sarajevo through a live video link between the besieged city and U2's Zooropa tour extravaganza. Zooropa toured Europe during the northern summer of 1993 and Carter's friends in Sarajevo spoke live to audiences about life in a war zone.

The tour culminated with its biggest show at Wembley Stadium in August 1993 and all stops were pulled out. Three Sarajevan women — a Croat, a Serbian and a Muslim — regaled the London crowd, with the last declaring: "I am glad you are listening to wonderful music. You should enjoy yourselves. But I want to ask one question. What are you going to do?"

She answered her own question: "Excuse me, but I think, nothing."

All further broadcasts were cancelled after U2 were criticised by the British press and politicians but Carter had made his mark. He later directed a documentary, Miss Sarajevo, for which U2 wrote the theme song and Luciano Pavarotti sang on the backing vocals.

Fools Rush In is a compelling read which explores the sometimes questionable role popular music can play in highlighting catastrophes such as the Bosnian War. Recent events, in places such as Iraq,indicate that Carter's message is as relevant as ever.

* Stephen Jewell is an Auckland-based journalist.

* Corgi, $27.95