Quinn received an extensive education at three different universities: Saint Louis University, University of Vienna, Austria, and Loyola University of Chicago, Illinois. He abandoned a career as a publisher in 1975 to become a freelance writer. Quinn is best known for his book Ishmael, which won the Turner Tomorrow Fellowship in 1991. This fellowship was established to encourage authors to seek "creative and positive solutions to global problems." Ishmael is the first of a trilogy including The Story of B and My Ishmael.
He is the author of the following books: