Internationally best-selling Swedish author Henning Mankell's popular police commissioner Kurt Wallander is heading for the big and the small screen in no less than 13 feature length episodes.

Three will be theatrically released, the first Wallander: Before The Frost in time for Christmas. The remaining episodes will be shown on TV.

The massive $25.5m (SKR190m) project is led by a new outfit, Yellow Bird Films, a joint venture between Danish producer Ole Soendberg, Mankell and Lars Bjorkman, the latter being Mankell's agent.

"We are elaborating on the concept we used on the Beck movies," says Soendberg, who executive produced the long-running Beck series based on the character created by Sjowall & Wahloo. "Each of the Wallander films will be a film in itself."

Production kicks off on May 17 and goes on for two and a half years, but the names of the directors have yet to be announced.

Yellow Bird Films co-produce with Swedish broadcaster TV4, Germany's ARD/Degeto Film, CANAL+ Television AB, Svensk Filmindustri and with backing from regional fund Film I Skaane, as all the films will all be shot in Ystad in Southern Sweden and the surrounding area.

Mankell has written some 35 novels, nine of which have Wallander as the main character. His books have been translated into 35 languages and sold some 24m copies, 14m of these in Germany alone.

Before The Frost is based on Mankell's two year old book, but the rest of the films are new stories with outlines written by the prolific writer and screenplays by a number of different screenwriters including Pelle Berglund (My Life As A Dog), Anna Fredriksson (The Bomber), Hans Gunnarsson (Evil) and Ola Saltin (Possessed).

"To me it is important and meaningful to make films based on these stories because we can use crime and the solving of crimes as mirrors of our society," Henning Mankell said in a statement.

The stories of Kurt Wallander have already been the subject of a number of Swedish TV movies starring the popular Rolf Lassgaard, but in this new series the main character will be played by Krister Henriksson(Faithless, Reconstruction).

Germany's Constantin Film has the rights to two of Mankell's Wallander novels and has been developing One Step Behind for director Paul Verhoeven, but that project seems unlikely to happen.