PASSINGS: Elaine Koster, Phelps 'Catfish' Collins, Jack Parnell, Dave Dixon, Matthew R. Simmons, Travis Harrelson
Elaine Koster

Publisher with a knack for new talent

Elaine Koster, 69, a publisher and literary agent with a knack for new talent who gave a second chance to an obscure horror writer named Stephen King and took on an unknown Khaled Hosseini and his novel "The Kite Runner," died Tuesday at St. Luke's Hospital in New York, according to Hosseini's publisher, Penguin Group (USA). The cause of death was not available.

As publisher of the New American Library in the 1970s, Koster paid a then-enormous $400,000 for the paperback rights to King's "Carrie," which had sold poorly in hardcover, and was later credited with helping to make a blockbuster out of Erica Jong's "Fear of Flying."

In 1998, she started the Elaine Koster Literary Agency. Her most notable find was Hosseini, whose manuscript for "The Kite Runner" had been turned down by numerous other agents. Now, millions of copies have been sold.

Born Elaine Landis in 1940, she grew up in Manhattan and graduated from Barnard College in 1962. Besides working at New American Library, she was president and publisher of Dutton and worked with literary and commercial authors, including Joyce Carol Oates and Toni Morrison.

"Her ability to recognize well-written commercial fiction … as well as important literary fiction, was unparalleled," King, who had been working part time as a teacher when "Carrie" was first published, said in a statement. "She may have been the key figure in the ascendance of the paperback in the marketplace during the 1970s and 1980s."

Phelps 'Catfish' Collins

Funk guitarist played with James Brown's band

Phelps "Catfish" Collins, 66, an R&B and funk guitarist who was the older brother of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame musician William "Bootsy" Collins, died Aug. 6 of cancer at home in his native Cincinnati.

Catfish Collins played with James Brown's J.B.'s, Parliament-Funkadelic and in his brother's Rubber Band. The brothers backed up James Brown on classics such as "Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine" and later joined Parliament-Funkadelic. They also performed on the soundtrack to the 2007 Judd Apatow comedy "Superbad."

Jack Parnell

Bandleader on 'The Muppet Show'

Jack Parnell, 87, a British jazz drummer who served as bandleader on "The Muppet Show," died Sunday at his home in Southwold, eastern England, after a yearlong battle with cancer, his family said.

As musical director at British broadcaster ATV from the late 1950s, he oversaw the music for the long-running variety show "Sunday Night at the London Palladium," produced specials featuring Tom Jones and Barbra Streisand, composed theme tunes and served as musical director of "The Benny Hill Show."

Parnell shared two Emmys for the 1974 TV special "Barbra Streisand … And Other Musical Instruments."

In 1976, ATV began producing "The Muppet Show," a musical variety show with a cast of Jim Henson puppets and celebrity guest stars.

Parnell conducted the orchestra for the whole of the series' five-year run, although the ostensible bandleader was the pop-eyed Muppet conductor, Nigel.

Dave Dixon