"I can never read this book, just like I can never see a movie that I wrote a screenplay for. I can read it and see it physically, but I can't accurately judge it. I'm too close to it. If I read it ten times I'll have ten different reactions.""I do small cameos here and there but nothing that requires more than a paragraph of talking, because I'm just an amateur. The movie is a whole different reality.""I don't need all that much - I just need to know who my characters are and what kind of jam they're going to get into, and I'll write myself out of their jam.""I started thinking about my relationship with my students; I'm this guy who comes in from book - and movie - land and descends on angel wings into their classroom.""I think the definition of an artist is not necessarily tied into excellence or talent; an artist is somebody who, if you took away their freedom to make art, would lose their mind.""I write because I can't imagine not writing.""I write because I write - as anyone in the arts does. You're a painter because you feel you have no choice but to paint. You're a writer because this is what you do.""I'd love to be a saxophonist. I don't know why, but I pretend I'm the saxophonist when I listen to music. I have about as much chance playing the sax as I do learning how to fly.""If I can tell you the story from beginning to end in five minutes, I'm ready to start writing. Then it's a constant spreading out of that five minutes.""If you're writing a book that takes place in New York in the moment, you can't not write about 9-11; you can't not integrate it. My main character's view is the Statue of Liberty and the Trade Center. It doesn't have to take over, but it has to be acknowledged.""The kind of event on a conveyor belt that causes a fire occurs in a variety of industrial environments, not uniquely in coal environments.""Writers spend three years rearranging 26 letters of the alphabet. It's enough to make you lose your mind day by day.""You can't take a character anywhere they don't expect the character to go. But within those confines is where creativity lies."
A self-described "middle class Jewish kid, Price was born in the Bronx, New York City and grew up in a housing project in the northeast Bronx. He graduated from the Bronx High School of Science in 1967 and obtained a B.A. from Cornell University and an MFA from Columbia University. He also did graduate work at Stanford University.
He has taught writing at Columbia, Yale University, and New York University. He was one of the first people interviewed on the NPR show Fresh Air when it began airing nationally in 1987. In 1999, he received the American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Literature.
He is divorced from his wife and is now living with the writer Lorraine Adams in Harlem.
Price's novels explore late 20th century urban America in a gritty, realistic manner that has brought him considerable literary acclaim. Several of his novels are set in a fictional northern New Jersey city called Dempsy. In his review of Lush Life (2008), Walter Kirn compared Price to Raymond Chandler and Saul Bellow.
Price's first novel was The Wanderers (1974), a coming-of-age story set in the Bronx in 1962, written when Price was 24 years old. It was adapted into a movie in 1979, with a screenplay by Rose and Philip Kaufman and directed by the latter.
Clockers (1992) was nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award. It has been praised for its humor, suspense, dialogue, and character development. In 1995, it was made into a movie directed by Spike Lee; Price and Lee shared writing credits for the screenplay.
Price has written numerous screenplays, including The Color of Money (1986), for which he was nominated for an Oscar, Life Lessons (the Martin Scorsese segment of New York Stories) (1989), Sea of Love (1989), Mad Dog and Glory (1992), Ransom (1996), and Shaft (2000). He also wrote for the HBO series The Wire. Price was nominated for the Writers Guild of America Award award for Best Dramatic Series at the February 2008 ceremony for his work on the fifth season of The Wire.He is often cast in cameo roles in the films he writes.
Price did uncredited work on the film American Gangster.
Price also wrote and conceptualized the 15-minute film surrounding Michael Jackson's "Bad" video.
Additionally, he has published articles in the The New York Times, Esquire Magazine, The New Yorker, Village Voice, Rolling Stone and others.
In July 2010, a group art show inspired by Lush Life was held in nine galleries in New York City.
As of August 2010, he has agreed to write a series of detective novels for Henry Holt under a pen name - Jay Morris - starting in fall 2011