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. In 1999, he received the American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Literature.
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. He has also written numerous screenplays, was nominated for an Oscar. He also wrote for the HBO series The Wire.
Price’s most recent work is a detective novel entitled The Whites under the pen name Harry Brandt.