William Link, ‘Columbo’ and ‘Murder, She Wrote’ Co-Creator, Dies at 87

Prolific TV writer was known for a decades-long partnership with Richard Levinson

Last Updated: December 29, 2020 @ 2:24 PM

William Link, the co-creator of classic TV series including “Columbo” and “Murder, She Wrote,” has died at the age of 87.

Link’s widow, Margery Nelson, told Deadline that her husband died of congestive heart failure on Sunday.

A prolific TV writer-producer throughout the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s, Link was best known for his collaborations with writing partner and longtime friend Richard Levinson.

Link and Levinson co-created dozens of shows together, including “Murder She Wrote,” “Columbo,” “Mannix,” “Jericho” and “Ellery Queen.” The duo also co-authored the books “Stay Tuned: An Inside Look at the Making of Prime-Time Television” and “Off Camera: Conversations with the Makers of Prime-time Television.”

Steven Spielberg, who counts the pilot episode of “Columbo” as one of his first directing credits in Hollywood, remembered Link as a generous and patient mentor.

“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,” the director said in a statement. “Bill was one of my favorite 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.”

Throughout their careers, Link and Levinson earned nine Emmy nominations, winning twice, as well as two Golden Globe Awards, a Peabody and a Tony Award nod for their play “Merlin.” Levinson died in 1987 of a lung cancer-related heart attack. He was 52.

In tribute to his late friend, Link wrote the 1991 made-for-TV movie “The Boys” starring James Woods and John Lithgow, about a writer who contracts lung cancer from the secondhand smoke of his longtime partner.

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times about the film, Link said his and Levinson’s partnership was like “marriage without the sex.”