Born in New York City, his original name was Richard Hirshfeld. His family was Jewish. In 1934 the family moved to the White Plains suburb of New York. He and his sister were baptised as Episcopalian. After an anti-semitic incident the family changed its name and moved to another suburb.
He served in World War II, then began his studies at Harvard in 1943 and graduated in January 1948. After the war he had jobs in advertising and public relations. In the 1950s he underwent Freudian analysis in an attempt to alter his sexual orientation, but he abandoned the treatment when he fell in love with the Texan Dan Allen.
Hall obtained an MA in English Education from New York University, graduating in 1970. He then took up a job as acting director of the University Press at the Inter American University in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where he stayed until1974. He then took up full-time writing and publishing, and was The Advocate's book editor from 1976 to 1982.
Hall was the first openly gay critic to be elected to the National Book Critics Circle. He pioneered gay detective fiction with his first novel The Butterscotch in 1975. In 1979 Richard Hall wrote articles which argued that Henry James was sexually attracted to other men. This was acknowledged by Henry James's biographer Leon Edel. Richard Hall's article Gay Fiction Comes Home was printed on the front page of The New York Times Book Review in June 1988.
His lover was Arthur Marceau from the 1970s until Arthur Marceau's death from AIDS related complications in 1989. Also Richard Hall died, three years later, of AIDS related complications, in New York.