Connelly grew up in a working-class family in Warwick, New York. He dropped out of Colgate University and, before publishing his first novel, worked as a paramedic at St. Clare's Hospital in Hell's Kitchen, New York City, for about a decade. He wrote in his spare time over that period, in a small flat in the Upper West Side and while living abroad in Ireland and travelling in Eastern Europe for a considerable period. During this period Connelly was encouraged by a creative writing professor at Columbia University. Bringing Out the Dead (1998) is autobiographical in nature and follows the story of a paranoid, hollow-eyed paramedic who works the graveyard shift in Hell's Kitchen. Having seen so much human suffering on the job, the main character of the book, Frank, has turned emotionally into himself, despondent to the point of becoming a drunk, his life a personal living hell. Bringing Out the Dead was an immediate bestseller on publication. It was soon optioned for $100,000 and eventually made its way to production as a major motion picture of the same name in 1999. Bringing Out the Dead was directed by filmmaker Martin Scorsese and the screenplay was adapted by Paul Schrader. Though the film was a critical success, it fell short of box office expectations. His second novel was Crumbtown in 2004.