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Respected TV writer William Link dies, 87

The co-creator of TV favourites “Columbo” and “Murder, She Wrote,” William Link, has died of congestive heart failure in Los Angeles, aged 87.

Over the course of Link’s decades-long television career, he became known for working alongside screenwriter and producer Richard Levinson. The duo collaborated on a number of projects, including both “Columbo” and “Murder, She Wrote.”

Steven Spielberg, who directed the first episode of “Columbo,” paid tribute to Link on Tuesday.

“Bill’s truly good nature always inspired me to do good work for a man who, along with Dick Levinson, was a huge part of what became my own personal film school on the Universal lot,” Spielberg said in a statement. “Bill was one of my favourite and most patient teachers and, more than anything, I learned so much from him about the true anatomy of a plot. I caught a huge break when Bill and Dick trusted a young, inexperienced director to do the first episode of ‘Columbo.’ That job helped convince the studio to let me do ‘Duel,’ and with all that followed I owe Bill so very, very much. My thoughts are with Margery and his entire family.”

Link spent years crafting narratives for TV audiences, but he also began producing shortly before the 1970s. The television hit “Columbo” first aired in 1971, with both Link and Levinson at the helm. Under Link’s watch, the series, which he co-created, produced and wrote for, remained in production until 2003.

Link and Levinson struck upon another long-lasting concept with their collaborative creation of “Murder, She Wrote.” The show lasted from 1984 to 1996, and the TV movie “Murder, She Wrote: South by Southwest” aired in 1997. Starring Angela Lansbury, the series featured a novelist who solved murder mysteries. It also challenged concepts for what audiences would tune into, as it lacked factors that networks often looked to when approving shows: sex and heightened violence.

The screenwriter’s work earned him two Emmy award wins and nine other Emmy nominations. He shared both awards with Levinson, and the duo were inducted into the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame in 1994 — a posthumous honour for Levinson.

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