An American author, he is remembered for his acclaimed memoir Stop-Time, which was nominated for the National Book Award. His other works include Midair (a short story collection) and Body and Soul (a novel).
He worked as the director of the Iowa Writers' Workshop at the University of Iowa for 18 years.
He was a jazz pianist as well as a writer. In 1986 he received a Grammy Award for his jazz liner notes.
He married Maggie Lee. Born in New York, he died of colon cancer in Iowa at the age of sixty-nine.
In his book Dogs Bark, But the Caravan Rolls On: Observations Then and Now, Conroy describes playing jazz alongside Charles Mingus.