Profile of a legend: Iconic television writer,
by Stacey Aaronson, Long Beach Literature Examiner
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In the height of the era of the studio system, MGM used to brag that it had “more stars than there are in heaven.” A grand proclamation for a studio who made some of history’s most memorable films featuring many of the most brilliant stars of the Golden Age of Cinema. Yet the motto, or a derivation of it, doesn’t only bring to mind the legendary studio. A similar tag line haloes another paragon of professional success – the groundbreaking creator of some of TV’s most memorable shows, who in his fifty-year career has received “more awards than there are stars in heaven” – iconic television writer, William Link.
His name alone may not spark a memory – many writers’ identities sadly fall into obscurity within the credits as they skip across or down the screen, overshadowed by the actors who bring the writers’ words alive – but William Link may just be one of the most famous people whose name you don’t know.
Rewind to the 1970’s. If you were old enough to watch prime time, then there’s no doubt you recall a disheveled-looking man in a rumpled overcoat, puffing on an ever-present cigar and solving some of Los Angeles’ most puzzling homicides with his understated – and underestimated – genius for investigative instinct. His name, of course, was Columbo, and he was brought to life by William Link and his long-time writing partner, Richard Levinson.
Fast forward a few years. The dedicated duo create another series, Ellery Queen. The fact that it folds after only one season may have been a setback for a less formidable writing team. But Levinson and Link still wanted to pursue the concept of a bestselling murder mystery novelist who solved real crimes. Enter a widow named Jessica Fletcher who inhabits the coastal Maine town of Cabot Cove and humbly uses her perceptiveness to look beyond the likely suspect and root out the real murderer. Twelve years later, Murder She Wrote became the longest-running mystery series in television history, a Sunday night staple whose loyal viewing audience made it an often top-ten hit for CBS during its decade-plus run.
Not content to wear only the hat of TV producer and series creator (add Mannix, McCloud, and The Cosby Mysteries to his credits), Link boasts an impressive list of other notable achievements: TV movie and feature film collaborator; short story contributor to prominent mystery magazines; playwright; inductee into the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame; and novelist, among others.
And those awards that outnumber the stars? Well, here are just a few of the well-deserved accolades bestowed upon this legendary writer:
Two Emmys, two Golden Globes, the Peabody, the Paddy Chayefsky Laurel Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Art of Television Writing, The Image Award from the NAACP, the Media Award from the Alliance
of Gay Artists in the Entertainment Industry, Television Radio Writers Annual Award, four Edgar Allan Poe Awards, and The Ellery Queen Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Art of Mystery Writing.
Link’s latest publication, The Columbo Collection, is an engaging array of short stories starring the lovable title character, proving once again that when an icon creates an icon, we as readers – and viewers – are doubly privileged.
|Website copyright 2011 by William Link.
Photo of William Link and Peter Falk by Douglas Kirkland
Book cover illustration by Al Hirschfeld. Copyright Al Hirschfeld. Hirschfeld exclusive representative is Margo Feiden Galleries, Ltd., New York
Website by Dovetail Studio.