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Balmer was born in Chicago to Helen Clark (Pratt) and Thomas Balmer. In 1909, he married Katharine MacHarg, sister of the writer William MacHarg. After her death, he married Grace A. Kee in 1927.
He began as a reporter for the Chicago Tribune in 1903 before writing for books and magazines. He was editor of Redbook (1927-1949) and later became associate publisher. Balmer was talented at inventing strong story lines. He would then commission young writers to write up these ideas for inclusion in Redbook.
He died on March 21, 1959 at age 75.
Balmer also helped create (with artist Marvin Bradley) the syndicated comic strip Speed Spaulding, partially based on the Worlds Collide series, which ran from 1938 through 1941 in the comic book Famous Funnies.
Balmer also wrote several detective novels and collaborated with William MacHarg on The Achievements of Luther Trant (1910), an early collection of detective short stories.
- 1909 – Waylaid by Wireless
- 1910 – The Achievements of Luther Trant with William MacHarg
- 1910 – The Science of Advertising with Thomas Balmer
- 1913 – The Surakarta with William MacHarg
- 1915 – A Wild Goose Chase
- 1916 – Blind Man's Eyes with William MacHarg
- 1917 – The Indian Drum with William MacHarg
- 1919 – Ruth of the U.S.A.
- 1920 – Resurrection Rock Almost an identical reprint of The Indian Drum
- 1922 – The Breath of Scandal
- 1923 – Keeban
- 1924 – Fidelia
- 1925 – That Royle Girl
- 1926 – Billings of '49 with Lilian Holmes Strack
- 1927 – Dangerous Business
- 1927 – Flying Death
- 1932 – Five Fatal Words with Philip Wylie
- 1933 – The Golden Hoard with Philip Wylie
- 1933 – When Worlds Collide with Philip Wylie
- 1934 – After Worlds Collide with Philip Wylie
- 1934 – Dragons Drive You
- 1936 – The Shield of Silence with Philip Wylie
- 1941 – The Torn Letter
- 1954 – In His Hands
- 1956 – The Candle of the Wicked
- 1958 – With All the World Away
- 2013 – The Compleat Achievements of Luther Trant (the 1910 book with 3 additional stories)
- Keefer 1978. p. 52.
- Balmer, Edwin; MacHarg, William (1910). The Achievements of Luther Trant. Small, Maynard Co. Retrieved 7 June 2016.
- Greasley, Philip A. (2001). Dictionary of Midwestern Literature Volume One: The Authors. Indiana: Indiana University Press. p. 51. ISBN 0-253-33609-0.
- Keefer, Truman F. Philip Wylie. Boston: Twain Publishers, 1978.
- Reilly, John M. (1985). 20th century Crime and Mystery Writers, 2nd Edition. New York: St. Martin's Press. p. 50. ISBN 0-312-82418-1.
- Tuck, Donald H. (1974). The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy. Chicago: Advent. p. 29. ISBN 0-911682-20-1.